just looking out on the day of another dream

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

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up on melancholy hill there’s a plastic tree

By a twist of fate (something that has happened a lot lately), I found myself invited to a party at Opal Gardens by friends I’d only just made within the week. There’s little I would say no to nowadays; there’s only so little time I have left in Manchester anyway.

Conversations that night went off on all sorts of tangents in Francesco’s tiny living room filled with 12 of us, and at some point, after having quite a bit too drink, I found myself talking about MBTI personalities with Farah and got excited upon finding out that she’s also an INFP, which spun into discussions about, “Do you think you’ve changed since your first year?”

I was prompted by Farah to write about my answer here on my blog:

Since the start of this academic year, I’ve generally refrained from writing much about…anything, really, on here. Reasons include extreme busyness, awareness that self-centric posts might be annoying to some, and a newfound fear of making public my emotions and thought processes based on current life events. I hate being dishonest and insincere, so instead of lying and hiding, I’d rather not write at all.

The same feeling still applies currently, but I’ve got a writing itch so let’s see how far it’ll carry me.

My number one motto/mindset for this year, as aforementioned, is to graduate from Manchester in six months without any regrets of not doing the things that I want to do. And thus, this sense of urgency, as well as the motivation to do more things and meet more people that has been cultivated over the past two years, provided me with seemingly endless courage to do things that I would never have been brave enough to do last year or two years ago.

This makes me pretty satisfied and happy. Some days, I allow myself the luxury and narcissism to measure my own progress since first year and pat myself on the back for coming so far. But, and I told Farah this too, somewhat incoherently, I still can’t seem to eradicate all skepticism towards my own measurement because after all, external validation has always been a deciding factor for what I believe is right or wrong. So where that stands, I am still wholly unsure since it’s not exactly common policy for you to go up to your friends and ask, “Do you think I’ve changed?” Still, it’s a nice achievement to think about in the shower.

Having coerced myself into this mindset for the past two months and thus experiencing twist after twist of fate, I’ve also managed to experience fleeting moments where a tiny thought would suddenly pop into my head, “Hmm, this is exactly what I’d always wanted”, remembering nights spent alone in my room crying and wondering what’s wrong with me that I couldn’t get the things I wanted, but now being able to barely ruminate on these worries and finding myself in situations that I’ve craved for years ago, almost imperceptibly. I mentioned in my previous post that these moments leave me feeling so intoxicated, at finding myself closing the gap between craving and achieving.

I’m not gonna lie, it feels weird! It’s so different. My life currently is so different from first and second year but I keep on going so I don’t allow myself to get too weirded out by this weirdness and hesitate. I’m afraid that if I stop, I’ll recoil back into comfort and regret again so I just keep going on, keep making plans, keep saying yes, keep keeping busy until I feel so far away from the fears of yesterday. Make no mistake, I’m not free from fear’s grasp, but I instinctively push myself to sprint away faster before I’m rooted to the ground, unable to do anything.

There’s no point denying that I’m still hiding a lot. This blog has turned from my ultimate emotion-vomit outlet to a highly public and fragile precipice that I have to handle with utmost care. But it’s better than nothing. Sitting here currently, in the Learning Commons yet again, I’m struck by how everything and everyone existing in my life currently are consistent reminders of how little time I have left here, urging me to drink in my surroundings more, to sprint more, until I reach a point that I’m satisfied enough to say that my third year in university was the best year I’ve had yet.

letters to poets (part v), this one’s called: three kinds of feelings

one.

it’s november. everything happens in november. the month everyone chooses for everything to happen in. deadlines. events. applications. plans. i’m a third year, you think, this is my third year in university and i have yet to learn my lesson of knowing when to compromise in the month of november. 

so you live day to day as systematically as you can by your schedule, important dates consolidated into physical obstacles in your mind’s eye. some days you’re productive, and you end the day by rewarding yourself with a tv episode or two. some days you’ve done shit all, and you force yourself to stay put in your seat in the learning commons even though it’s one in the morning and your eyes are strained to the highest degree. the thing is, your ratio of both types of days is so heavily unbalanced tilting towards the latter, so much so that a good majority of your time is spent in a building filled with equally weary and exhausted students, chasing the same things you’re chasing, worrying the same things you’re worrying.

you’ve lost count of how many sandwich meals you’ve had. always ham or bacon or if you’re lucky enough, some exotic asian-flavour-inspired chicken that’s always left in either twos or threes on the shelves in morrison’s. you’ve also lost count of how many mcdonald’s suppers you’ve had well late into the night, head full of guilt and self-reproach of all the late night habits that you are, once again, cultivating merely two months into the new academic year, yet there’s nothing i can do about it, you tell yourself. it’s a necessity. live a little.

and so one wednesday, you find yourself in the exact same position again, back hunched over your bible-sized textbook and computer, a slave to the mind-numbingly rigid examination system just like everyone else in the same premise as you are seated in. the times new roman 12pt words on your screen are starting to blur; you’ve been here for hours, punctuated by meetings and society responsibilities. and sandwiches, you recall. those sandwiches were the only meal you had for the day. so, despite your fatigue, despite it already being the morning of the next day, you call up a friend for supper (again), wolf down three dishes, and that’s when it starts to hit.

exhaustion like no other.

an exhaustion that makes you feel dizzy even though you aren’t even standing up. one that makes you reach for the healed scab on your scalp again after such a long time of avoiding anxiety. it feels like a haze, slowing down your movements and thoughts and you worry you might just fall off your chair if you continue staying up any longer. so you pay the bill and hurry home, an automated routine until you fall onto your bed and sink into your duvet. sleep at last, sleep at last.

and yet. you’ve always had a problem with getting what you want, huh

sleep evades you. somehow. for some reason. your body is ready to sleep. your mind is ready to sleep. you feel relaxed. you feel the familiar tendrils of unconsciousness pulling at you leisurely, yet there’s something in your mind that’s stubbornly keeping you anchored to the here and now. it isn’t anxiety, your chest isn’t thumping erratically, your palms dry without sweat.

it’s a floating awareness, lethargic and uncalculated, quiet and unknowing, in the dark of what feels to be between three and four am.

two.

it’s no longer news to the people who know you that you are a sad person. that doesn’t mean you’re sad all the time (not anymore, anyway), but by default, sadness is your go-to emotion. the first emotion that your alcohol-ridden cortex triggers is sadness. you dislike feeling angry so you choose to be sad instead. you’ve gotten so used to sadness that you don’t even view it as a negative thing in certain circumstances anymore. you know sadness. it’s familiar. it’s almost comfortable.

so when your first few months of your third year pummelled you with fist after fist of sadness, you barely feel the shock anymore. sure, you still fall. you’re still not strong enough to withstand a punch to the face without sinking to the ground, but you’ve been on the ground long enough for you to recognise every groove and scratch of the surface underneath you; you’re not even surprised anymore. you’re sad again! no one around you is even surprised anymore.

but after being sad for so long, you’ve become able to differentiate between your own sadnesses. the first type is the most straightforward. something or someone makes you sad, you feel sad, and the mechanics and gears of your brain, hormones and nervous system identify this specific emotion, wasting no time in propelling your tears through their glands, down the vast barren lands of your cheeks until you’re a sobbing, hiccupping mess that feels like it can ooze sorrow through its very pores alone.

crying is a good thing. it has always been your number one coping mechanism. there are few circumstances where you don’t emerge from an emotional bawling flush feeling at least five times better than you were pre-cry.

no, the greater evil isn’t crying for five hours straight to an array of people about an array of things. it isn’t having to wash your sweater the next day because you’d been soaking its sleeves with your own uncontrollably overflowing snot.

the greater evil is feeling that hollow, sinking feeling in your chest but being unable to cry the sadness away. it’s sensing an emotional blockage that manifests in an actual blockage in your throat, accompanied by a suffocating feeling and a churning gut. it’s feeling lost and helpless because you can’t pinpoint the source of your sadness, but you still feel it everywhere that is within your capability to feel, like an itch you can’t reach no matter how hard you try. it’s actually actively searching for external stimuli to make you cry, because that’s all you’ve ever known to deal with sadness. it’s telling someone “i’m sad” but being unable to answer the subsequent response of “why?” with a rational reason. it’s, thus, being coerced into swallowing the blockage down as best you can and attempt to keep busy with real life tasks, filling your brain with things and hoping that the brimming capacity of your brain will push the unidentifiable sadness out.

it’s wondering when you will stop being immersed in sadness for so long that you have all the time and brain space in the world to analyse your own sadness for the world to comprehend.

three.

now this one. you can’t really wrap your head around this one. this feeling has observed some rather drastic changes over the years, and each time, you have rather solid reasons and justifications for what you were feeling at the time, so it’s not like you can pointedly label one to be better than the other.

you remember a conversation you once had with a close friend who was far away: how you used to yearn company so much but at that time, you could understand completely her previous desire to be left alone and to carry out her own plans at her own pace. to your surprise, she responded similarly, but with a directly opposite view in reference to her current craving for human companionship.

four years ago, there was little you would say no to. it’s not like you’d completely abandoned your personal space, but having people around was mostly always better than none. you wanted to be invited to everything, and you were. you wanted to participate in all the conversations, and you did. “do you really always want to talk to [your friends]?” “yes. definitely.” you couldn’t understand why anyone would want differently.

two years later, whether it was due to circumstance, or just a very drastic self-inflicted change of mindset, you chose solitude. sure, you still felt lonely as hell, probably even the loneliest you’ve ever been, but you constantly felt the incessant need to get out. get out of places. get out of crowds of people. but maybe you were just getting out of being the person you were around people, which wasn’t a very good version of yourself at the time. if i’m not with people, then i won’t have to witness the painfully inadequate and incompetent person that i am in relation to everyone else. it made sense. in front of everyone else, you felt like a loser. in front of just yourself…well, you might still be a loser, but at least you can do and say the things you want without worrying about what other people might think of you.

you found things to occupy yourself with. anime. books. studying. these were things you looked forward to going home to everyday, and honestly, they made you feel wholly yourself. you were in your own headspace all the time, making you hyper-aware of your own desires and thoughts. if anything, this gave you a rather firm grip on your own self. you’ve never felt as self-realised as you did then.

well guess what. you’ve also never felt as lonely as you did then.

because the world is full of people, right? and people are always interconnecting, right? no matter how comfortable one feels in their own skin, cohabitation and communal living are inherently human. and why wouldn’t they be, when there’s such an unimaginably massive sample space of specimens out there to discover and learn about. when it’s all the media ever feeds you with. when you can’t even go anywhere on campus without being reminded of your lack of connections.

so you try again. try to get back into that mentality of wanting to surround yourself around people. it’s difficult at first, because you’re technically peeling off a hard shell that has hardened with age over the past year, and you scream and you cry but you don’t stop trying. and along the way you still have doubts as to whether this is the correct path after all but you still continue anyway because what else was there to do?

but amidst the uncertainties and apprehension, there finally comes a time when you get to say with confidence that you are reaping what you’ve sowed. and this time, you don’t get to say that it’s just simply wishful thinking, when it’s right in front of your eyes. you actually cannot believe it. you start to feel the yawning distance between who you were and who you are now even more palpably. and frankly, this disparity leaves you feeling quite intoxicated. you allow yourself to feel pride and triumph at achieving a desired milestone. you allow yourself the giddiness of doing things you’ve never done before, meeting people you’ve never met before. you think to yourself, it’s been a long and arduous journey, but i’ve made it.

and yet, that nagging voice at the back of your head whispers sinisterly. you understand immediately.

and yet, you are still lonely.

in the pursuit of otherness, you’ve forgotten to retain the core of what it means to be by yourself, with yourself. so you’re always leaving, leaving to go somewhere else, leaving to meet someone else, until some days, you forgot what it’s like to have a home to come back to.

and at the same time, as you walk along streets filled with people, hands buried deep in your pockets from the inching winter, hoping to catch a glimpse of any familiar face in your mental database, you still wonder what it’s like to have the ultimate connection that everyone around you seems to have, a milestone left unaccomplished, unattainable.

Bamford, In the High Peak

…was literally what was written on the signboard welcoming us to Bamford. I mean, no judging, but you could tell me that’s the name of a posh English movie and I wouldn’t be surprised.

Weeks before reading week, the phrase “peak district” had already been hurled around multiple times among my friends, but because third year has been hell for most of us, we had no choice but to postpone plans until the opportunity arose again in the form of celebrating CC’s birthday by going on a birthday day trip.

Only to be ditched by the birthday boy himself the very morning we boarded a train to Bamford. (Haha just kidding, GWS CC)

And per tradition, what’s a day trip if Michelle doesn’t fail to fall asleep at a normal hour the night prior? I got two hours of sleep that night and maybe 30 minutes of uncomfortable shut-eye on the one-hour train journey from Piccadilly.

But also per tradition, all traces of weariness and sleep-deprived crankiness vanished the moment we reached Bamford, replaced instead with surprising bouts of energy which translated into seemingly endless streams of bullshitting about anything and everything until we started our ascent upon Bamford Edge and I had to explicitly assert out loud my silence from then onwards (in between breathless pants) in order to conserve stamina (which I already severely lack) to finish climbing the peak.

Praying for the blessings of any nearby mountainous deity to not be a wuss and finish climbing the peak in one piece

The first thing that I thought of when I saw the peak was: wow, this looks so post-apocalyptic and dystopian

We didn’t really realise what we had signed up for until we left the blissfully tarred road and properly commenced our actual climb up the mountain. Challengingly steep muddy terrains, omnipresent sheep poop and blisteringly cold winds. That’s what we’d signed up for.

But we made it! After what felt like multiple boss fight levels, a rock-terrain platform game, and dog-petting sidequests, we reached Bamford Edge and was rewarded with a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the English countryside as well as the Ladybower Reservoir. And by breathtaking I mean from the beauty but also from the vertigo of being so high up that it felt like I could be blown off the edge by high-altitude winds at any moment.

We were pretty much already half-dead by the time we reached flat land again and had late lunch at a pub before rushing to the station and reaching the platform merely two minutes away from the arrival of our train. That night’s sleep was a soundless one from extreme exhaustion, accompanied by the pleasant echoes of Bonfire Night fireworks in the distance.

stomach acids

i didn’t ask to be so highly susceptible to every single emotion and desire i possess, to the point that i completely lose track of time and my physical surroundings. to be so caught up in a single one-track line of thought that leaves a trail of aloofness and incongruity in its wake. to wake up every morning greeted by that familiar intense sourness in my gut that indicates something more than hunger.

but such begins the second month of my third year of university.

God Bless My Lorde and Saviour

I was actually in Croatia when tickets for Lorde’s European tour went up, and so my ticket purchasing moment saw me riding in the shotgun of our rented car, driving along the breathtakingly picturesque Croatian highway en route to Dubrovnik from Split, partially Google-maps-navigating, and partially buying tickets on Ticketmaster as quickly as possible before they were sold out.

Thus, with a click of the “Buy” button, Chong En and I were going to watch Lorde live in O2 Apollo on the 26th of September.

Pure Heroine was one of the albums consistently present in my 2014 college playlists, a particularly musically magnificent period of time for me, during which I weaved many tales through music together with my friends on road trips or chilling sessions, whilst Melodrama is such an aesthetically fulfilling album filled with both dance-worthy tunes and soul-crushing ballads. There wasn’t a single moment during her show where Ella did not give her hundred percent, and seeing her quirky but passionate dance moves contagiously hyped the hall’s atmosphere up throughout the entire night. Vocals, concepts, costumes, performance – and even merch; all of them were tens out of tens. It was an incredible night.

Despite being on the cusp of her twenties, Ella’s talents shine so brightly in the way she manages to encapsulate feelings and emotions that deeply resonate with those little dusty corners of our hearts that house loneliness and melancholic affection through her lyrics and music, making her songs anthems of the young and misunderstood.

Despite it being a rather solemn period of time for both artists and concertgoers following the recent attack, the spirit of appreciating live music with other similarly musically-inclined people lived on, something that I hold very dearly in my heart.

Khalid was the opening act

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

Vertigo

The only way I know how to describe the start of my third year is: uncertain. Even now, so much uncertainty, instability, which is rather vertigo-inducing considering how I’ve already spent the last two years in Manchester, so it doesn’t make sense that I have so much doubt over my final year here. I was writing in my journal on my Istanbul-Manchester flight, and my closing paragraph was, “In a nutshell, I’m greatly uncertain about my third year. I’m not as pessimistic or indifferent as my first year, nor as optimistic or excited as my second, but I only wish this year to be one of no regrets.”

And I guess this uncertainty can be mildly attributed to the fact that after last year, I felt as if I’ve exhausted myself of all options and opportunities to do the things I want that will lead me to be the person that I want to be. If that makes sense? Objectively, I know that I’m not revolutionarily out of my comfort zone to do the things that scare me in order to better myself, but at the same time I’m just at a point in my life where I’m so exhausted. To the extent that sometimes I feel like I’m merely deceiving myself as to thinking I’m even getting anywhere, and this thought process is so pessimistically familiar that I fear the tendrils of despair that are telling me to give up because no matter how hard I try, I take one look at other people, scroll through social media, and already I feel like I’ve failed yet again.

Always so many self-induced expectations and obligations, that at one point, I realised that my personality is just: “What kind of person are you?” “Anything you want me to be.”

Because, it dawned on me horrifically when I woke up one night at 4am to pee (ungodly hours of the day that just sort of triggers epiphanies within yourself), I prioritise pleasing other people over pleasing myself by being…myself. Because when you’re like me, chronically running low on self-esteem after years of fearing isolation and loneliness, the only validation and approval of my own existence that matters is when it’s external, ie from the people around me. I once wrote something a few years back along the lines of, “one’s existence is really wholly dependent on the perceptions of others”, and listen, I was actually talking about the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime but apparently, somewhere along the way, I’d invested my entire cognisance in that notion.

And, like, I know this is pretty much “TLDR, I need constant approval and affection from other people so feed me with them please” which I’m not even going to lie to myself by denying it, but it’s gotten to the point that my entire fundamental reasoning mechanism of deciding what is intrinsically right or wrong hinges on what other people think is right or wrong, a subconscious lens to view the world that leaves me an empty shell of no essence. No beliefs or opinions of my own, because I’m so desperate for human connections that I would rather trade them for external validation. I don’t know what I’m doing, I really don’t. I don’t think this is the right way to live, because I know I wouldn’t want my friends to live like this, either, but like I said, I’m so unstable on my feet that I can no longer tell what is really right or wrong. And this frightens me so, so much because I’m fucking 22 years old and I’m graduating in a year, yet I’ve never felt so hopeless in all the 22 years I’ve lived. I didn’t use to be like this; I don’t know what happened along the way.

Already I know I’m still going to end this post with, “I’m still going to keep on trying nonetheless” and that’s not a lie, but giving up can be a very tempting idea when you’ve had so many false hopes and expectations that you kinda wanna scream “SOMETHING GOOD SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED BY NOW!!!!!”

But. Well. I’m still going to keep on trying nonetheless.