Fall/Spring – Field Notes

FALL 2016

It’s already dark out at 6.30PM. Winter is coming.

Rumin and I bought a blender for our new home. Some days, the one thing I look forward to the most is buying boxes of fruits like strawberries and blueberries from Morrisons and making fruit smoothies to introduce an illusion of health into my poor dietary routine.

I walk to and fro uni everyday now compared to last year when I took the bus.

The bus: good for people-watching and is fast, but

Walking: allows me the privileged opportunity to take in my surroundings, including scenery, weather and even more people-watching. Now, during fall, it’s the best opportunity to observe the yellow-brownness eclipsing everything around me (a favourable colour scheme on my refreshed palette this year).

(And then, in addition to this year’s new walking habit and colour palette, also comes a sudden new inclination to look out for specific faces among the crowd of uni-goers and people going to work.)

(I’ve never seen this face before.)

There’s something about a new year that just breathes life into everything around me. New apartment. New image. New ideas. Obsessed as I am with constructing an impeccable impression upon other people, it’s another second chance for me to rewrite undesirable aspects of my personality and bravely replace them with aspirations that I’ve set for myself. The term “new” brings along with it a certain privilege for you to depart from the persona people previously knew you to be – and offers you the creative freedom to give your character a complete makeover without the repercussions of people asking you, brows raised, “What happened to you overnight?”

Reading Simmonds for jurisprudence – never thought anything would catch my attention besides underlining answers to answer seminar questions but:

Finnis’ concept of practical reasonableness – when choosing between two choices, you choose the one that appears to be more practical and reasonable to you rather than the one you desire the most, which goes against the doctrine of favouritism and choosing to do the thing you want to do more. In the face of practicality, does desire take a backseat in the human nature of deriving satisfaction after all?

I feel that, the longer you live, the more people you know, the more you see your friends/acquaintances/people you know in strangers you meet for the first time. Like “Hey, the way you speak reminds me of a friend”, “You know, there’s a classmate of mine who thinks exactly like you do” and at first glance, this may seem like there are a certain number of fixed templates for human beings similar to character archetypes, but just like characters are in its contextual sense typically fictional, this concept is just fictitious. There are more dimensions to human beings than we can ever fathom and record.

SPRING 2017

It’s spring. The weather has warmed considerably and spring blossom trees flank every British road and alley. The sun only starts setting at 9PM and the contrast between the skies of six months ago and now really accentuates the amount of time that has sped by exponentially.

In my consistently continuous endeavour to be better than the person I was one second ago, to do more things to stand out among crowds of young adults with similar backstories, I am still constantly looking for brand new opportunities to ensure I don’t get too comfortable with stagnancy. And this fervour has spilled over into a dream one night where I found myself giddy with adrenaline at the prospect of travelling somewhere far by myself.

And then a month ago, I went to Chester, and realised that I’d been there before in a dream.

I stopped in my tracks involuntarily before the Northgate. I’ve been here before. I’ve been here before. It felt like the most intense déjà vu bordering on surreality. Before me was an image that had already been etched in my mind before, despite this being the first time I’ve laid eyes upon the sight before me.

My dreams aren’t always nearly as nice as this though – lately they’ve been taking on rather morbid twists several nights in a row that have left me with an apprehensive fear of succumbing to a dreamworld where I have zero control over any events that occur in it every night. And it’s precisely due to this lack of control, this lack of safeguards, that leads to the surfacing of my worst fears in mental situations where I am helpless to put up a fight against. Losing my friends. Being shunned. Death.

(Anxious habits in college reminded me of how I used to listen to podcasts every night before I go to sleep, creating an illusion of reassurance and distraction even as I drift off because it’s getting scarier to be alone with my thoughts.)

(The habit returned.)

Sleep isn’t the only event in which I find myself unable to assert control over my thoughts, I recently discovered. It turns out that my automatic knee-jerk reflex to high levels of alcohol is, besides the first few initial minutes of faux confidence, unloading all emotional baggage normally stowed away at the back of my mind to the cerebral cortex for maximum impact.

And, you know, it’s already spring, not so much the weather than the time that has passed by. It’s been months since I started university. Years since I left school. And yet, it seems like I’m no nearer to bridging this consistent gap I reflexively extend between myself and other human beings. Out of fear? Out of habit? Both are stories I don’t wish to visit if I can help it, but some days, I wonder if I had even inched forward at all. All that talk about getting myself out there and doing things that scare me; in the end, did I really procure and learn something from it if I still hold myself at an arm’s length from the main point of anyone doing anything ever?

(The main point being, of course, abandoning solitude and seeking solace in in-depth human connections.)

 

MNight: The Aftermath

It started way back in June, when Thivya sent me a Facebook message out of nowhere saying that she’d read my blog before and wanted to ask if I might be interested in applying for the position of scriptwriter for this year’s MNight? Prior to this conversation, I’d actually already seen the recruitment poster in the Malaysian Society group and considered applying for a few minutes before hurling it to the back of my mind for later perusal (a horrible habit of mine that has so far led to many passing of internship application deadlines without even realising it).

After Thivya’s message though, the prospect of applying sort of just hung around lazily in a random corner of my brain, not urgently on the top of my list of things to do, but also not completely out of sight in the depths of forgotten ideas. I was back at home for summer; it wasn’t exactly the best recipe for productivity and motivation. It wasn’t until five days to the deadline and three days until I was leaving for Chiang Mai that the matter was forcefully pushed to the front, demanding pressing attention. I had two options then: 1) sit down and intensively brainstorm for a skeleton script within those three days, or 2) give up on the plan entirely while coming up with excuses like “nah it’s okay I’ll just join MNight as something else instead”. Knowing my lazy ass, I was heavily inclined towards the latter, and coupled with the need to pack for my Chiang Mai trip and wanting to laze around at home before a week of travelling, doing something that required so much brainpower wasn’t the most appealing thing to do.

But after years of firsthand experiences, I knew, at that moment, that if I did not sit my lazy ass down and come up with at least something, no matter how shit it might be due to time constraints, I would really regret it. I’d spent the entirety of my first year of uni complaining and lamenting that I had as much worth as that small piece of rubber on the top of a wooden pencil, and to blatantly overlook this opportunity when it was right before me would be almost blasphemous. And I was not wrong. So thanks, past-Michelle, because despite your tendency to dawdle until the last minute, at least you still found it within yourself to make an effort to take the first step towards what would be one of the most memorable experiences of your entire life.

After finding out that I’d gotten the position one month later, the first emotion that came was excitement, and then the second intense doubt. I’d never been tasked with something this big before. I knew how important an event MNight was, and all of a sudden, with just a single Facebook message, I was going to be one of the main people whose efforts would decide whether Manchester’s MNight 2017 would be a success or a failure. Sure, I was immensely excited that I would be playing a huge part, but I didn’t dare allow myself to feel too comforted by getting the position, leaving area for doubts towards my capability to even produce a decent script, what more an excellent one. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch or something like that. That was why I was very afraid and reluctant to tell anyone else besides my parents that I’d gotten the position, just in case I manage to mess up before I even began. I remember when I was still back at home, thinking, “What if I end up not being able to come up with a good script and get fired? What if I end up not being able to come up with a good script and it becomes Manchester’s worst MNight?” These thoughts haunted me for that whole month, even up to when I boarded the flight back here to Manchester to commence my second year of uni.


During one of the first few full runs at Academy 3, Delib asked me why I joined MNight as a scriptwriter this year. “Thivya asked me if I wanted to join” was a truthful answer, but having previously been a part (albeit a tiny part) of MNight in 2016, MNight is something that has unexpectedly left a pronounced mark in me. Being a mere props crew member last year, I was surprised to realise how affected I was during curtain call, signalling the end of MNight 2016. It wasn’t so much that I loved my job a lot, but rather seeing so many people from various departments put in so much effort and come together to make something as enormous as MNight work made me feel so warm and appreciative inside. It made me feel like I was a part of something and that feeling of gratification was one I craved so much at a time when I was in a sort-of crisis not knowing what to do with my life.

Which is why MNight will always be something dear to my heart. That feeling of togetherness was very valuable to me, and well, who wouldn’t feel the same about that? Humans are communal beings etc. And since MNight is an event involving such a large number of people, to be able to witness everyone experience the same kind of interrelationship bonding that was bound to leave an unforgettable mark in one’s life was truly what I envisioned as one of MNight’s ultimate goal, and one I continuously strived hard for.


I was pretty scared during our first ever MNight committee meeting during the second week back in Manchester because of a number of reasons: 1) almost everyone was an MSSM committee member, 2) everyone knew everyone, 3) it was my first time talking to some of these people, and 4) I had to explain my script in front of them. I think I spoke not more than a hundred words that day, which frustrated me because that was the opposite of growth, but it was only the first meeting, and second year of uni has somehow given me a certain level of motivation that was absent throughout my first year.

Fast forward the next few months, it really was a journey all of us took on together, from the first few meetings at Pavithra’s flat in Nick Everton to setting up auditions in SU to discussing new script ideas in Starbucks. The entire process feels like something I call the time conundrum: it feels like this was such a long time ago, yet at the same time it also feels like just yesterday that I met Thiv, Shun, Kesh, Pav and Soo Han for the first time in Nick Everton.

There were many ups and downs, and a lot of throwing myself out of my comfort zone. Like literal picking up and hurling across the street kind of throwing. There were times when I managed to stand atop my doubts and fears triumphantly and was confident enough to let myself believe that this year’s MNight would be the best among the rest, and then there were days that saw me lying awake until the wee hours of the morning, paralysed with anxiety that MNight 2017 would be a flop and it would be my fault. This fluctuating spectrum lasted even up until moments before the show itself started, but by the time the real curtain call occurred, it finally settled upon a wholesome conclusion.

The birth of the idea of 16/5 was as unconventional as MNight scripts don’t usually go, with six of us huddled around a small coffee table at Starbucks in December randomly throwing ideas out in the open in the hopes that some good ones might stick. 16/5 was not a single idea, it was an amalgamation of several ideas that we spent the next few meetings piecing together to make it what it is today. Which is why I love it so much: it had a little bit of each of us in it, like a limited edition Horcrux, representing the camaraderie that fostered among us after weeks of meetings and practices and discussions. And unlike the initial script, there were a number of issues we wanted to tackle specifically now that we were starting from scratch. Interracial relationships, mental illness and its stigma, rape culture, breaking stereotypes in society (especially racial ones) etc. 16/5 was a story each of us wanted to tell by addressing social themes that were personal to us.

Acting practices recommenced after that, and then soon it was 7-10PM five days a week at Denmark Road without fail. The first time running through a scene is always the most surreal, just like the first time seeing all the actors do a read-through of the Rewind script. Like, what the heck. I always have imagined scenes in my head whenever writing the dialogues, but seeing real life people actually reading them out (and then later on, acting them out) in real life is honestly on another level altogether. It was even more so with 16/5, in which the characters were written more or less with the existing actors in mind.

We only really had six whole weeks of acting practices left once the new script was finalised, and it was only a matter of time before the weekly countdown to the 11th of March started, and the technical aspects of the play started coming into play. This included sound, lighting and stage arrangements, which meant that Yee Lin and Ee Min started attending practices more and more frequently with me too. Objectively, with these important components coming into life, it meant that MNight was becoming realer by the moment but even then, I just couldn’t realistically contemplate the prospect of the play being put on stage for so many people to see. It was just too surreal. These used to be just words that I typed out on a google document.

And then it was two weeks to MNight and we started having full runs which were somehow loaded with conflicts and problems which left everyone in various states of frustration and panic by the end of the night. There didn’t seem to be a single perfect full run, up until the day before MNight, and the fears and doubts that had reasonably died down with time started flaring up again. “But tomorrow is MNight” felt like a statement of hopelessness, but what else was there to do but to continue trying?


The night before, I could barely sleep, and when I went to Dancehouse the next morning, I could already feel slivers of contradictory reluctance sneaking into the crevices of my bones. I kept on checking the time, not wanting time to move so fast and MNight to end so soon, but also feeling exhausted from consistent rehearsals. And still, I couldn’t really believe MNight was actually going to happen. That in a few hours, 400 people would start pouring into the theatre to watch a play that I’d written and worked on with the rest of the production team and other crew members for months.

By 5PM, I was starting to get a little bit nauseous from the nerves. It’s true that my anxiety was relatively unwarranted because it wasn’t like I was going to be acting or performing on stage, but what happens during those mere three hours of MNight is going to reflect all the effort and hard work we’d put into making the play work since September. Three hours vs seven months. That kind of pressure was terrifying, and I was nervous on behalf of everyone acting, performing and working on that night. With the amount of effort that had been put in to make MNight work, there was no room for fuckups – that was the kind of mindset that I had on, and I reckon it was the same for most others as well.

But you know what? When Adam and I went around interviewing people for Humans of MNight, we asked Soo Han to describe MNight in one word and he said “magical”. He’s right. Despite the abundance of problems that surfaced during the previous rehearsals, everything somehow magically fell into place that night. I was biting my lips so much and channelling a hundred percent and more of my concentration towards the stage from my position backstage, hoping that if I thought hard enough, I could send everyone the strength and luck they needed through telepathy or some shit, all the while running around barefoot to provide help where needed and being entirely too nitpicky about every single thing because it was the last performance, and if not then, when can we truly go all out?

Three hours felt like three minutes when you’re backstage, and before I knew it, it was already scene 20, and Azhani was delivering her final speech as Cik Fatimah. It really, REALLY occurred to me then, as I looked at the actors filing out in a line to say their last line on stage, at Ee Min in the stage director seat, at the dancers waiting by the stairs to come out for curtain call, at the props and stage crew members, at Thiv and Shun who had appeared behind me clad in their respective dresses, that 16/5 was over. It was over. And it was a success. Months and months of working so hard, all for this moment, and it paid off. The audience was clapping, and so were we. So was I. Grinning and feeding off the high and giddiness of watching the last scene of 16/5 for the very last time of my life.

And then I went out on stage to take my bow.


One of the reasons (among a whole legion) why I was so anxious for MNight was the incessant fear that 16/5’s story might not make sense to the audience after all. That it won’t be appealing, but rather boring and dull. After working on the story forever, I was already so immune to it that I couldn’t look at the play and form objective opinions about it anymore. It had transformed from ideas and messages I’d thought about previously to mere words and syllables being uttered by the actors.

Which is why to this day, I still lumber around in confusion everytime I get good comments about it. The first thing Ken Fui said to me when I met him after the play was “the play is so you“, and that the classroom settings nostalgically reminded him of his own high school days. Lionel said the same thing too, that “if you don’t know Michelle and watch the play, you’d just think that it’s a story focused on tackling social issues, but if you know Michelle, you’ll know that it’s more than just that, the whole story itself is just so her”. Janice said it was a brave move for an MNight to tackle sensitive issues such as mental illness, rape and societal stereotypes, and Joe even said that the last two scenes, coupled with appropriate background music, made her almost cry. Even Marco, Lionel’s friend who came all the way from Edinburgh just to watch Manchester’s MNight, said that he could personally relate to one of the characters, and it was a story that he needed at that current point in his life.

I may not be able to have objective opinions about the play itself anymore, but after hearing comments like these, it truly warms my heart to know that we’ve accomplished what we’d set out to do in the first place when we took it upon ourselves to organise MNight this year. It didn’t matter if people thought it wasn’t the best MNight story out there, because being told that people could relate to aspects of the characters and storyline, and that it succeeded in delivering strong impactful messages to the masses, is honestly the highest form of compliment one can receive.

All my worries about appealing to the audience were also for naught; THEY WERE SO RESPONSIVE. So much so to the extent that I found myself wondering incredulously as to why they would even laugh at the most unnecessary parts. But the audience that night was truly amazing; they laughed at the right parts (mostly), aww-ed at cringey romantic moments, and went pin-droppingly silent at sorrowful and suspenseful scenes. Being backstage throughout the whole show, I couldn’t really watch the show clearly because I was constantly moving around, so I could only really guess what was happening onstage based on the audience’s reactions and responses, and I was not let down at all.

And for this, I really have to thank the actors for putting on such an incredible show for everyone to see. It really is just so incredible to witness everyone’s growth from day one to the day of performing onstage for everyone else to see. Joey, Thejas, Azhani, Darren, Chong En, Farah, Ryan and Husna, thank you for constantly striving to improve yourselves, for consistently giving it your all and even more during MNight itself, for growing so much since day one of practice to calling yourselves actors now, for embodying your characters so much to the extent that it stirs emotions within others as well, for being witty and quick on your feet to know exactly what the crowd wants and aim to deliver, for persevering and choosing to hang on even when things got tough and tiring, and overall for being so dedicated and committed towards a common cause of MNight. I am just so, so grateful to see the efforts all of you have put in, and to see all of you shine so brightly like the stars you are on stage that night.

Story aside, I also want to applaud all the choreographers and dancers for truly breathtaking performances that night. I’m honestly running out of adjectives here but there was not a single performance onstage that night that I felt was not the product of everyone’s sincere and genuine heart and soul. I’ve attended a couple of dance practices and to be so consistent in practising for so many months leading up to MNight is really something else. Whenever I think I’m tired, I look at the dancers and doubt my exhaustion can ever compare to theirs. Thank you to all of you too, for your hard work and sleepless nights and tiring practice sessions. 16/5 wouldn’t have been what it was without all of you.

Finally, the MNight core team. I don’t think words can ever do justice to describe my endless gratitude towards all of you. We’ve been seeing each other constantly for the past few months, and I cannot deny how much I’ve learned from all of you. There were times when things got so tough that MNight didn’t even seem possible, but all of you believed in MNight, which fuelled my own belief in it, and I really am so glad that no matter the hardships, we still toughed it out to the end towards our common goal. Thiv, Shun, Pav, Kesh, and Delib, I couldn’t have asked for a more passionate and dedicated team to work with to make 16/5, mere words on papers in my hand, a reality that was enjoyed by so many. Thank you for giving me the chance to grow and learn from my mistakes, as well as offering help and encouragements when I needed it. Like I said to Thiv paralleling Mrs Lee’s infamous quote, I believe in you, I believe in us, I believe in the MNight 2017 committee.


Last year, I gradually warmed up to MNight despite only being a props crew member after seeing the combination of everyone’s efforts materialise into a legitimate play right before my eyes. It was such a fascinating thing to me, to see such harmonisation among so many people to work something work, and that was the main reason why I ended up loving MNight.

This year was no different, but the impact is even closer to heart in my position as a scriptwriter being involved in MNight from the very first day when it was only a barren notion with nothing to show. And it wasn’t just MNight that was an empty shell from the very beginning, because I was too, until coercing myself to work on MNight filled me with a certain level of self-confidence and fortitude that told me I was good at something, and good for something. I did so many things outside my comfort zone, and I’m thankful that MNight has repeatedly provided me with opportunities to do that despite the initial fear, so that now I can at least look back and say that I don’t regret not doing certain things I wished I did. Of course there were definitely some things that I still wish I did better and more adequately, but despite the exhaustion, busyness and stress that accumulated with time, unlike many others aspects in my life, I don’t think there was ever a time when I contemplated throwing in the towel and just giving up. There is no other way to put it: I enjoyed it. I enjoyed working on MNight. And I was so happy and relieved upon this realisation because after years of studying things that I dislike and hoping that it would end one day, the same never occurred in this instance. I had finally found something I thoroughly enjoyed doing.

And it wasn’t just writing the script (though that in itself was a brand new experience; I learned later on how different writing speech dialogues to convey a story was compared to descriptive prose). Bouncing creative ideas off each other and offering opinions on them, attending practices to watch the directors work with the actors, looking for suitable background music and sound effects to insert into the play, reading the first few drafts for the programme booklets, discussing mic arrangements with the stage director, and running around being as much of a help as I could backstage on the day itself; I loved doing all those things despite the workload. I was busy, but I was satisfied, and satisfaction derived from busyness was something I’d craved for since last year to make myself and everyone else around me believe in my own worth as a human being.

Compared to last year, I can say with even more confidence and gratitude that I am so proud of every single person involved in this year’s MNight.


The day after MNight saw me nursing a hangover and a headache while bringing Ken Fui and Anabelle around town, but when I came back, there just wasn’t anything that I felt like doing. I was tired, but it wasn’t the kind of tired that you could recover from just by resting. I was tired and unwilling to do anything except lie on my bed and think about the previous night’s events, going through the play scene by scene through multiple lens consisting of my own and the audience’s. I missed people, I missed places, and I missed routines. It’s true that you only really start to appreciate something when it’s gone, just like how I suddenly only have this extra motivation to write dialogues and attend practices when I don’t have to anymore. Nothing else felt as compelling as this. I didn’t really know what to do anymore now that there was this phantom limb that had been attached to my torso for seven months.

But I allowed myself this mourning period, like I always do with anything that comes to an end. Just like how things were after I came back from Sunway, I allowed myself this grace period of being mopey and sad all the time because I think I deserve it. Something as huge and impactful on my life as MNight deserves the proper mourning I’m giving it. And just like Sunway, I feel heart pangs whenever I pass by Denmark Road or Academy 3 or Dancehouse, a sensation that never existed previously because I only possessed a one-track mind towards MNight, and now that that track is gone, everything else in its wake stands out even more noticeably like a sore thumb.

I told my parents that part of the reason why I feel so upset about MNight ending is because after hitting the summit of 16/5, it feels like nothing I do after that will ever compare to this, so what is the point of doing anything else if my prime is over? This is definitely the sentimental melodramatic persona in me taking over, but some part of me really does believe that anything else I do in life will never top this level of success and gratification, and it’s a feeling dominating this mourning period.

With all this said and done, nothing remains as conclusive as the fact that MNight is over. 16/5 is over. And whether I like it or not, it’s time to close off this chapter of my life, just like how I closed the “16/5 lines” google docs tab for good. Closing is a brutal word, but it does not carry with it the definition of severing ties with the friends I’ve made along the way, nor the experiences and memories I’d gained throughout this eventful journey.

If there’s one thing that I do feel like doing during this period though, it’s thanking everyone once again, for making MNight, MNight. Thank you to the production team for, you know, everything I said above, thank you to my friends who came all the way from London, Glasgow, Lincoln, Loughborough, Liverpool and Edinburgh just to watch and support Manchester’s MNight, thank you to all my friends, old and new, who have offered shoulders to cry and lean on when I was at my worst, and cheered me on enthusiastically when I was at my best. I signed up for MNight expecting a lot, and came out with so much more; this is an experience of a lifetime that I will never ever forget.

MNight: Two Days Before

Missing our producer Thiv and co-producer Shun

MNight is coming to an end. I know it’s a bit weird to be saying this two days before the actual date of MNight but that’s the lens that I have on now, and have been wearing for the past few weeks. And honestly speaking, I can already feel the reluctance to part with it.

Tonight was our last practice session at Denmark Road, after weeks and months of daily 7-10PM practices. I didn’t even realise it until I saw Joey’s snapchat, and with that realisation came the even more encompassing awareness of affixing the phrase “The Last” to every single event leading up to MNight itself, mirroring all my past experiences of good things coming to an end and feeling the sour ten-tonne weight tied to it right in my gut. The Last Practice. The Last Rehearsal. The Last Scene.

Two days. That’s such a minuscule number compared to the number of days since way back in September last year when meetings first started, and probably even before that when I started working on the initial script. MNight has always been this Thing in the Future, not readily within sight but something to constantly strive for like an aspiration, so much so that even up to last week, I still couldn’t really believe everything we’ve worked so hard for, all the meetings and practices and basically my entire second year of university so far, was going to be exclusively for this one night on the 11th of March, a play to be put on in front of 400 pairs of eyes. Heck, I still can’t believe it even when writing this. I don’t think I’ve ever really been so significantly involved in an event of this large a scale before, thus rendering me without any concrete past experiences to compare the upcoming MNight with, so my emotions are just a huge ??? that I have no clue how to even logically rationalise. The ratio of days past:days leading to MNight have always been relatively balanced in my mind, but now it’s a scale heavily tipped and biased to one side, and so are my ??? emotions.

There’s so much more I want to write, but I want to save that for post-MNight introspections. And also because obviously if this Saturday turns out to be a flop then spilling all my feelings into this post would be kind of embarrassing (but knowing the sentimental sap I am, I would probably go ahead and write it anyway regardless).

As it is, where we are now, so so so very close to Manchester Malaysian Night 2017, I look forward to putting on an incredible show for everyone to see, together with everyone in the team whom I’ve worked with for the past six months. It’s been an incredibly long and arduous journey, but we’re finally at the penultimate stop before the pinnacle, and we can’t wait to show everyone the results of pouring our heart and soul into making MNight a success.

Here’s to a memorable and wonderful MNight, from all of us with the greatest of passions and sincerest of hearts. I’ll see you there.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    

Throwback to 7 years ago, when I first heard of them because a Tumblr friend of mine posted a photo of the xx vinyl that she’d bought.

Throwback to 3 years ago, when their music was what I sought after when I was in the mood for some masochistic sprinkling of salt over my emotional wounds.

Throwback to 4 hours ago, when I saw The xx live for the first time before my own eyes. It was a night of great music and completely losing myself to dancing (scope that reference) in a crowd of musically like-minded strangers.

Michelle’s People I’ve Watched Live List, updated:

a little bit lost

i somehow always find myself back at ground zero after a while. everything is just tiring now and tasks that came naturally to me now require an incredulous amount of motivation. after what has been an avalanche of posts describing how wholesome i feel after half a year back in manchester, this can only make sense if This is who i am at the fundamental foundation of what makes me a person; This being constantly scared and believing the absolute worst of any situation. i’m back at that point in life where i start questioning the validity of everything i do, whether it’s right or wrong, necessary or pointless, enough or wholly inadequate. i don’t know. i’m struggling quite a bit. and the thing is i can’t see the physical manifestation of what it is i am struggling at exactly. after years of using logic and facts to fight against immaterial overthinking, logic itself just seems like a ruse now. rationally, my fear can’t be real, but after so long of not seeing results, of not actually progressing beyond what i’ve romanticised so far, it starts getting to your head: maybe my fear is real after all.

change, part ii

i had a sort-of midlife crisis circa march/april last year that i never really told anyone about. made a longass video about it but never got around to editing and/or uploading it because a) it was really longass and b) like i said i was busy having a sort-of midlife crisis. but basically in a nutshell that month-long period saw me constantly carrying around a ten-tonne weight in my stomach, looking around at the successes and achievements by friends and family and feeling like every minute i spent not volunteering for a samaritan cause or meeting new people at a social event or i don’t know, rescuing a baby from a burning building was time wasted. this also didn’t go well with my ingrained doctrine of experiencing university years as the Best Years of My Life, because i wasn’t even doing anything in the first place to make that a possibility.

many of the people i’ve met here in manchester told me over the course of the past few months that i’ve changed, and i agree. i’ve changed considerably from the person i was in my first academic year, precisely because i was so incredibly unhappy with my first year life that it absolutely frightens me to think about the mere prospect of returning to that life again, a life of idleness and passiveness that made me feel even more minute and impactless than i already felt. i couldn’t stand another year of that. so much that you could even say i was desperate for action, for stimuli, for every damn thing you can throw my way and by god, i will take it. so many things still make me scared and anxious, but after having lived a year of tiptoeing around the edges because of this precise fear and anxiety and emerging from that routine of extreme safety and comfort a dissatisfied and unhappy person, i realised sometimes fear can be a small price to pay in return for the wide array of brand new things the world has to offer. i only have less than two years left (tentatively) in the UK, if i just let all this time pass by me without doing anything substantial, i know, without a single doubt, that i’ll be writhing in agonised regret less than two years from now for not seizing every opportunity i could get while they were still within reach.

from september 2016 up till now, i’ve been consistently climbing a mountain without looking down (because if i did so i’d probably stop and give up from the height). and now, standing where i am, it’s a bit difficult to see clearly my point of origin. it’s been such a rapid climb too, that i hardly get the chance to pause and take a respite, to look back and reflect on all the progress i’d made and take notes on it. so currently what i possess is this huge gap between who i was and who i am now, and frankly it’s a bit disorientating. my mind blanks out every so often; it’s a bit difficult to introspect when you’ve gone so long without it, but it doesn’t feel at all right if you don’t do it, like you’re not actually gaining anything from it. the accumulation of “i’ll jot this down and think about it later” has somehow just spilled over overwhelmingly in the process that even recalling past experiences takes immense brainpower, even more so when your mental elasticity has hardened and slowed everything down. this is not a problem, really. in fact, not thinking so much was an aspiration of mine for years. but it all just feels very weird when i no longer have the time to sit down and write for myself, to examine and inspect every single detail of my life occurrences obsessively. i used to be so in touch with my emotions and thoughts that piecing them together was second nature to me. in contrast, doing the same thing now requires an active effort. it makes me think. if i’ve lost that ability, what else do i have left within me?

in the end, fear still underlies all this. why else would i start getting so jittery when i look back at old blogposts and find that i am unable to stir the same emotions within myself as when i wrote them? straying away from something you’ve always found to be familiar can be world-shatteringly scary i suppose, but this is no less than what i’d been trying to accomplish since i came back to manchester, just that in the process of Not Being First Year Michelle Again i’d also consciously and subconsciously picked up several other things too. this is all too abstract for me to lay out in a non-nonsensical way but i’m convincing myself that it’s better than nothing. i want to write more. i need to write purely and solely for myself again, because it’s been too long since i’ve done that.