The Definition of “Womanhood”

women-in-mini-skirt

What is the definition of “womanhood”? Any takers?

I am 21 this year, I just turned 21 last month. 21. Twenty-one.

I’m a woman. At least, according to social psychologists and the dictionary, and other professionals like doctors, and in the eyes of the government and the law, I’m no longer a little girl anymore, nor am I a “tween” or a teenager; I am a full-fledged woman, ready to go forth into the world and discover, explore and conquer, be it new lips to kiss or new books to read, in the full prime of my life, with rosebud lips and unwrinkled skin and high heels on my pretty, little feet.

Or say they say.

Today, I went to a wedding. It was a beautiful wedding, in a church, and there was a sermon and pastor; there was music and singing, vows were read and spoken; food and refreshments offered in an annex off the church, on long, huge tables, salmon canapes and sushi and finger sandwiches; and I had quite a pleasant, if not wonderful, time.

The whole entire time, however, new thoughts and revelations were whizzing through my mind like pinballs. First, I was suddenly surrounded by scores of beautiful women, many of them much older than me, 27 or 28, even in their 30s, all dolled up, dressed in finery and heels, earrings and necklaces, hairdos and rings. Not all of them were exquisite—that is only to be expected—but they all had this certain “grown-upness” about them, a kind of glamour and beauty that comes with age and experience and worldly knowledge, or perhaps is inborn, like a seed implanted in them when they enter the world and which blossoms and grows inside of them as the years pass.

They seemed so dazzling, so faraway, floating about in a world I couldn’t reach, speaking high-sounding words and laughing and interacting with one another like women in a fairytale, in a clique, in a secret club. In my pretty black dress with a lace bodice, and black flats, my hair done up in a bun, sitting in the pews near the back, I felt secretly very childish and small, like I was a little girl, masquerading as a grown-up, and doing a very poor job of it to boot.

The feeling worsened when the most beautiful woman I had ever seen sat behind me in the pew. I only turned around and glanced at her for a second as she sat down, but that second was enough: she was tall, elegant, her face gorgeous and perfectly-formed, her body willowy yet womanly, her hips curving within the confines of her tight-fitting blue gown. But it was more than her physical appearance that struck me like a slap across the face: it was the way she carried herself, her aura; she seemed to exist in a grown-up world of handsome men and suites in fancy hotels and champagne and cocktails, cigarettes and James Bond movies, sex and money. Everything I was not, she seemed to be. To me, she was the epitome of the exquisite womanliness a thirteen-year-old girl might bask in awe of, not a twenty-one year old woman already growing into her own bones and limbs, already starting on her own path in life. No, more: she was the popular girl in school, who always seemed older and more womanly than me, bolder, braver, more interesting, brighter, who captured the boys’ attentions and made the girls laugh. She was the kind of woman the tall, handsome men who populate the novels I read and write would find themselves drawn towards, like a moth towards a light. She would laugh, shining with her womanliness and sexiness, and they would be captured, just like that. I was just a little girl, watching from the sidelines—I had no hope of attracting the attention of a prince.

“Not all of them were exquisite—that is only to be expected—but they all had this certain “grown-upness” about them, a kind of glamour and beauty that comes with age and experience and worldly knowledge, or perhaps is inborn, like a seed implanted in them when they enter the world and which blossoms and grows inside of them as the years pass.”

I suddenly felt very, very small. Very small. Like I was a child, a stupid child, who didn’t understand the world of grown-ups and could be awed by her first sight of a true and proper lady in a fancy dress, her arm hooked with the arm of a man in a suit. I felt as if I hadn’t grown, not really, not in all my years, not since I was ten years old, or even eight. I was still a little girl, and somehow, other woman had grown up and left me behind. I was suddenly acutely aware of how grown-up and womanly some of the ladies around me were, with a pang of—of grief. Of hopelessness. They had babies, husbands. They had boyfriends, careers, taxes to pay and cars to drive. What’s more, they had the kind of womanly figures I’d always dreamed of having—elegant yet curvaceous, with just the right amount of femininity and sensuality. Meanwhile, I was small-chested and had barely any hips to speak of—I’ve always been rather gangly and thin, with not a trace of sexiness in my appearance, demeanour, body build, personality or mannerisms. That’s who I am. That’s who I’ll always be. A strange, imaginative little girl, building her own stories behind closed doors, dreaming of faraway lands and magical princes, thorns that grow when you speak to them and birds which talk and whisper to you their secrets. Maybe I was stuck, I thought, horrified, stuck in the world of my own mind, stuck in the imagination of a child’s, the thoughts of a child’s, and it had stunted my own growth somehow, made me into this strange hybrid of adult and child.

What makes a woman a woman? Is it her sensuality? Is it her marital status? Is it her maturity? Is it the width of her hips, the size of her cleavage? Is it a certain aura about them, that seems to speak of an understanding of men and all their wonders and quirks? I felt as if I was in high school all over again, standing on the other side of the window to the other teenagers, watching as they laughed and socialised, and I stayed quiet in a corner and buried my nose in a book. I felt left out, cheated, angry, sick. I wished I could slot myself amongst all those gleaming, beautiful women, laugh with perfect, painted lips, my earrings dangling and catching the light, perfume radiating from my hairless, glowing skin. I hated myself in that moment, hated my childish-looking body, my childish thoughts, my insecurity and inferiority complex—I hated myself, and wished I was grown-up and womanly with that air of glamour about me, like cigarette smoke, like sex.

I’m a little girl, I thought. I’m not a woman. This is a joke. Give me twenty years, fifty years, a hundred, and I’ll always remain a little girl. In my heart, I am a child, and physically, I’m thin and straight and flat as a board. I don’t have the femininity to lure men into my clutches and make them fall in love with me and my body. I felt wretched. Tears threatened to build in the backs of my eyes. What makes a woman? I pondered and thought. I wasn’t a perfume-radiating, high-heel-wearing creature of womanliness and beauty. I had no baby to rock on my knee and feed to my breast, confirming my womanliness. I had no man’s attention, lavished upon me, no strong arm wrapped around my waist, steering me as I walked through the world. I didn’t cook or clean very well, I didn’t sew (as outdated as these ideas might be), I had no group of laughing girlfriends, I didn’t have a career in some corporate office with eyeshadow on my lids and pencil skirts, I wasn’t a doctor or a nurse or a scientist or an artist or a singer or a teacher; I was just a writer, a lonely girl, tapping out her thoughts and imaginative worlds onto an electronic screen in an empty room.

“I hated myself in that moment, hated my childish-looking body, my childish thoughts, my insecurity and inferiority complex—I hated myself, and wished I was grown-up and womanly with that air of glamour about me, like cigarette smoke, like sex.”

But was that what it meant to be a woman? To be feminine, womanly, sexy? Is that the only definition of womanhood that exists? Babies and husbands? Careers and conversations revolving around housing prices? Pretty dresses and earrings and bloody perfume? No. There are different ways to be a woman. After thinking about it all day, to the point where my head hurt and I had to down some water and Panadol to stop the ache from splitting my head open, I’ve realised womanliness doesn’t necessarily revolve around curvaceous bodies and babies and men and perfume and high-heels and job stability and sexual experience. I’ve realised there are other ways to be a woman, because everyone is an individual and different. I dug deep inside myself, into the core of who I was, where the dark, poisonous wells of my self-loathing lay, and drew it out of myself and inspected it, ran it through a sieve, through a filter. And I realised something.

I’m not a “girl”. “Girls” don’t have the wisdom I do, to see into myself and the minds’ and hearts’ of others. “Girls” do not possess the kindness to want to plant trees all over the world and help people who are starving, or thirsty, or suffering from toothache, in some ugly, third-world community. “Girls” do not spend their waking hours painstakingly writing word after word after word to construct a book, a story, diving into otherworldly worlds like a fish. “Girls” do not realise a man who wants you for only your body isn’t a man at all. “Girls” do not write articles like this. “Girls” do not love animals enough to weep at the fact that they have to consume them for the sake of their health and nourishment. “Girls” do not listen to music as if they are drinking water after a long thirst, soaking in the notes and tunes, feeling them thrum and dance through their blood, weep at the sense of nostalgia, the feeling of yearning for someone or something you’ve never known, that rises in their heart at the sounds of certain songs. “Girls” do not watch films with a bittersweet feeling in their chest like a hard knot of bone and sinew, or lie awake staring into the vastness of themselves. “Girls” do not see their father and mother as flawed, unhappy humans with their own pain and inner worlds and lives and thoughts and feelings. “Girls” do not possess the heart that I do, that mind that I do, the spirit I do, and, yes, the body that I do. I may be flat and straight as a board in all the wrong places, but as far as I know, all the pieces are in working order and, if need be, I could birth a baby just as easily as the next woman.

“I’ve realised there are other ways to be a woman, because everyone is an individual and different.”

There is no one definition of being a woman, just like there is no one definition of being a human. We’re all marvellously intricate, special, unique, lovely and one-of-a-kind. We are who we are; we are ourselves; and that’s wonderful. We’re children of God. Our lives are blessings, our experience of the world gifts. When the time is right, someone will be attracted to me; when the right person comes along, in his eyes, I will be the most exquisite creature on the planet. But I don’t need the male gaze or the male presence to feel womanly, or to be a “woman”. The definition of womanhood is that there is no definition of womanhood, because womanhood isn’t defined by the world or society: it’s defined by the size of your heart, the maturity of your soul, your connection to life and the universe, and the strength of your spirit. And, in that case, I am most definitely a woman.

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Don’t Brush Away Discomfort When Interacting With Others

sad woman.jpg

I don’t know if this is an INFP thing, or if it’s just me, but I have terrible habit, extremely detrimental towards my happiness, of ignoring any discomfort or “warning signs” when I’m interacting with other people and making excuses for their behaviour, words or actions, no matter how bad or ugly they are. It’s as if I’m a doormat, unconsciously, subconsciously, and whatever comes spouting out of people’s mouths or whatever they do to me, I just take it and accept it, like a person standing in front of a gun and willingly getting shot, without any hatred and anger in the moment towards the attacker. In fact, I usually just register the pain, and on the rare occasions I try feebly to fight back, with little, “But that wasn’t…’s” and “Do you really think…’s” , they argue back and bully me into believing their version of the truth, which is that they did absolutely nothing wrong. It’s stupid, and it’s about time I stood up for myself. It’s about bloody time.

This habit of mine started very early. It was ingrained in me by my father, who was abusive towards me when I was just 3 years old. Once, I took some dried pineapple that had fallen out of its wooden trough—you know, that section of the supermarket where you have to scoop nuts out of the wooden containers using little metal shovels?—and hid it in my hand. It was stealing, yes, but I was too young to realise it what I was doing was a very bad thing. Instead of chiding me for it, he burst into rage upon discovering the hidden fruit, clutched in my tiny 3-year-old fist, picked me up and put me on a high window ledge above the toilet in our apartment at the time, my legs dangling over the edge, the toilet bowl far below me, cold and white. I was terrified. I cried. I wailed. It was a moment of such horror—of being picked up like a rag doll and plunked on a high shelf—that my small mind couldn’t take it and broke. I was, and still am, to this day, terrified of heights and sudden movements from other people. This moment lasted with me for the rest of my life, causing years of pain and social anxiety around the people, because I was always afraid they might, one day, snap and do something to me like my father did when I was first learning about the world.

“In fact, I usually just register the pain, and on the rare occasions I try feebly to fight back, with little, “But that wasn’t…’s” and “Do you really think…’s” , they argue back and bully me into believing their version of the truth, which is that they did absolutely nothing wrong.”

It got worse in primary school. Once, I wrote a really good definition for a word in English class, which the teacher read out to the entire class, praising it for its phrasing and wonderful verbosity. I was ecstatic. Then, a girl in my class, who wanted to be a writer like me, flounced up to me and said, snidely, coldly, “Did you copy that from the dictionary?” I shook my head, dumbfounded, saying, “No,” murmured it, meekly and softly, when I should of cried, “No!” I just shrank into myself. Another time, the teacher praised me for my poetry. I was doing marvellously in my English classes, and when it came time to write our poems in a book which would then be “published” and we’d take it home, a boy who was jealous of the praise I’d been getting from the teacher deliberately cut my poem short and pasted it at the bottom of the page, claiming it there was “not enough space”, even though there was more on the other side, and the teacher didn’t notice, and he was in charge of organising the poems on the pages. At the time, I accepted it, thinking to myself, “Oh well, I’ll just get less space than everyone else, no biggie” but now, in retrospect, I think to myself, well, it was a “biggie”, it was unfair, and he was deliberately doing that to kick me under the table, so to speak.

Don’t even get me started on the years of abuse I suffered at the hands of a family member. At the age of just seven years old, she criticised my writing because she was jealous of my opportunity in life to read the books I liked and write the things I loved (she’d given up her dream of being a writer herself) and often chided me, telling me I couldn’t write, that I was the worst writer in the world. I took it to heart at the time, thinking it was true, turning my face away and ignoring those comments—but why? Why couldn’t I have stood up for myself instead? Then, when her husband sexually harassed me, I kept making up excuses for it, thinking he was just “being friendly” when he gave me female sanitary products and period relief medication, referencing my “private parts”, touching and kissing me inappropriately, and so on and so forth. It was as if I’d become so used to abuse and denigration it had become normal to me.

“This moment lasted with me for the rest of my life, causing years of pain and social anxiety around the people, because I was always afraid they might, one day, snap and do something to me like my father did when I was first learning about the world.”

Then there was this guy I had a crush on. Don’t even get me started on him. He had an abusive personality, just like my father, which was probably why I was attracted to him in the first place. He scoffed at me, bullied me, looked down on me—the list was endless, the ways he tormented me, mocking me for my “love” for him, when he knew full well I was an innocent teenager just experiencing her first crush. And what did I do? I shrank deeper into myself, become more meek and quiet, more shy. I was the epitome of spinelessness. When I started dating, a man once said to me, “I think you’re a really shitty person.” I was distraught, because I quite fancied myself in love with him and was crushed by his word choice, only for it to be all cleared a moment later when he said, “Because I can’t stop thinking about you.” Basically, he’d delivered a death blow just to see my reaction—which he actually said to me afterwards, “I just wanted to see how you’d react”, and he would do this repeatedly, hurting me then making up for it, or saying things like “Are you looking at yourself in the glass?” when I faced the glass door on the train station, to point out my vanity, and I’d have to vehemently deny, protesting like a woman from the 18th century facing an angry husband.

Today, I realised just how much of a doormat I’ve been my entire life. When a teacher of mine bullied me, I took it, even though she was just a sad and bitter woman who wanted to take out some of her feelings on someone else. More recently, I broke up with my so-called “best friend” of little over a year, because I awakened one day and realised she hadn’t been treating me right for ages, and, per usual, I’d been brushing every hurtful thing she’d said under the carpet. When I ate food, she’d call me a “pig”, making me feel grotesque and disgusting, like I was some gigantic, deformed animal gobbling away at her viands. She told me she was entitled to my publishing money after—or if, because she never completely believed I’d get published, deep down, at least not in the next five or ten years—I got my books published, and that I had to finance a holiday to England for her, because I’d be “rich” (first advances run from $2000—$5000), even though she wouldn’t even buy a $12 t-shirt for me, rudely saying, when I made a joke about not staring at the pretty t-shirt, “Well, I’m not going to buy it for you.” She’d tell me she’d spent “so much” money on me, as if I owed her the world, after buying me cake and KFC. When I once mentioned the possibility of my book getting published, and accidentally mentioned “Hunger Games” in the same sentence, she said, “Woah, you’re arrogant.” Deep down, she resented me for the person I was, and might become, because I worked diligently everyday and all she did was sit on a couch and watch TV all day long. That’s why she felt entitled to my money after I got published.

“When I ate food, she’d call me a “pig”, making me feel grotesque and disgusting, like I was some gigantic, deformed animal gobbling away at her viands.”

That wasn’t the worst thing. All that wasn’t the worst thing. Despite presenting a façade of supporting my publishing dreams, she outright told me my mum would be dead before I ever got published. Dead. She told me, to my face, that my mother would die without ever holding a book of mine in her hands. Since this has been a dream of mine, this was so hurtful it shattered my world for a second. I couldn’t believe those words had come out of her mouth. For birthday presents, she’d gift me strange things, like a book about a celebrity figure she was obsessed about, when she knew I no interest in the person in question. It was as if she just didn’t care enough to gift thoughtfully. At a shopping centre, while we walking through it, she screamed, “Homophobe! She’s a homophobe!” and pointed to me, making everyone around us stare at me. I was so embarrassed, mortified and uncomfortable, but she kept doing it, laughing her head off, finding it the funniest thing ever. She used to steal, even though I disapproved of stealing. She wasn’t a 3 year old child. She was a grown, adult woman, stealing candy from stalls and the cinemas, and eating them, right in front of my face, laughing and saying they “wouldn’t miss a couple of sweets”. The list goes on and on, but one day, I woke up and realised, enough is enough: I’m tired of being a doormat. I cut ties, snip-snap, just like that, and haven’t looked back since.

If there’s anything you can get from this unhappy article, it’s that you deserve to be treated well. By your friends, your family, yourself, your boyfriend, girlfriend, by your co-workers—don’t put up with bullying, snide-comments or put-downs. You deserve better. I deserve better. Life is too short to put up with toxic people. If someone in your life no longer seems to complement you, or seems to pull you down instead of lift you up, it’s time to cut ties, even though you might be hesitant and wonder if you’re being (excuse me as I throw up) “too harsh”. The years of abuse, mental and physical, that I’ve endured at the hands of people over the course of my life, people who I thought I loved and treasured, is irreversible, but the future is not. I, Dreamerrambling, swear and promise, from now on, to only cultivate relationships where I feel supported and respected –- and so should you. Go on, do it. Because you deserve it.

My Writing Process

typewriter

I just finished reading “The Martian” by Andy Weir, and while it was a magnificent book, chock-a-block with scientific facts and space terminology that went right over my head, and I found the main character, Mark Watney, to be brilliant and funny, the ending absolutely blew. Completely. In terms of the build-up and amount of suspense gearing up towards the ending, I expected something earth-shattering and irrevocable to happen. Instead (spoiler alert!), it all passed without a hitch and everybody lived happily ever after like a bunch of fairytale princes and princesses living in their castles and sipping on fine, red wine or something. It was as if a fairy godmother had waved a wand at the end and made everything happen perfectly. I wanted tragedy, suspense, excitement, something, an explosion of fireworks like the Fourth of July—but it all fizzled away with barely a spark. The writing, though, was beautiful and I enjoyed every lovely, succinct sentence of it.

Anyway. Back to the topic of this post. A ramble. I do a lot of rambles, simply because I have a lot of thoughts swirling around inside of me which need to be released every now and then, like air from a balloon. My writing is going well, I’m working at a steady pace of several thousand words a day. That might seem like a lot, but it really isn’t, because after editing those thousands of words can probably be pared down to about a thousand words or less, give or take. My writing process kind of goes like this: write an almost stream-of-consciousness piece of writing, blabbering everything about the scene I can onto the page, then edit later, and edit hard. Other people like editing—there are writers who hate the first draft and love the edit, the refining and polishing part—but I actually dislike it, because during the edit, I don’t really experience the scene with colour and bursts of light the way I do when I first blurt it out onto the page.

Instead, it’s like painting gaily and then having to add in the lines and contours to turn the painting into something legible. Something people can recognise. For instance, a line written on its first draft would probably go like “the sun burst through the clouds in rays of sunshine that sparkled and dappled the waters until it looked like it was encrusted with diamonds and Jasmine stepped close to the water, watching as its ripples flowed and receded against the shore” and the edited version would be something like “The sun burst through the cloud, its rays of light sparkling over the dappled waters as if diamonds encrusted the lake’s surface. Jasmine stepped close to the shore of the lake, watching as the ripples of its glittering waters flowed and receded against its banks.” Basically, it’s a bit like tidying your room, except in this case, you’re shuffling around words, punctuation marks and capital letters.

Actually, I think this is the first time I’m ever writing about my writing process, which is strange, considering I’ve been writing for most of my life and my love for writing was the reason I started this blog in the first place. How do I go about creating a book? Easy. You sit at the typewriter and bleed. Just kidding. There’s no blood involved, and I do not use a typewriter, as cool and inconvenient that would be. Instead, it first starts off as a seed of an idea. I won’t tell you my ideas, because that would spoil my future books for you, but say, for instance, the idea is a woman falling in love with a werewolf. Once I get that idea, I start to create what China Mieville calls “a constellation of images” surrounding that particular idea, in that, almost like a film or an animation movie (I tend to imagine my books either as live-action films or animations in the style of The Legend of Korra, my favourite show), scenes start popping into my head, like magic, and I write them down, oftentimes in chronological order. Then, using these images as “fabric”, I stitch together the body of my story.

After that, it’s just a matter of translating that short synopsis into a full-length book, experiencing the world and events through my characters and developing everything from dialogue to world-building as I go along. I write, as I said before, in a stream-of-consciousness, word-vomit kind of way, just splashing whatever I’m thinking onto the page, then spend grueling hours afterwards fixing it, neatening it up and making it look nice. A 60,000 word book, after it has been edited, oftentimes turns into a 45,000 word novel. Recently, I received an email from a literary agent recommending I transform my supposedly “middle-grade” fiction into an adult novel of 95k words. That’s a lot of words. What’s more, my writing style isn’t complicated enough for adult fiction, and the main character is only eighteen or seventeen (I still need to work out her exact age). So, even though I’ll try to hit 95k, I think I’ll make it a YA (Young Adult) novel instead and see how that works out. If it really doesn’t work, I’ll just have to up my ante and write a more complicated book using bigger words and longer sentences.

Then there’s the incubation phase. It’s crucial to writing a good novel. Even Stephen King, the greatest horror writer who has ever lived, recommends it (although I must admit, I’ve only read The Long Walk by him, since I can’t stand gore and horror fiction at all—like, I’d nearly rather die than watch something extremely gruesome and frightening). An “incubation phase” is when, after you finish a book, you set it aside, preferably start another book while you are waiting, and then, when a couple of months or weeks have passed, depending on your preference, you dig the book back up out of your computer files or that drawer in your desk and re-read it with fresh eyes. Basically, you read it as though you’re reading it for the first time, as a reader instead of a writer, pretending your reading someone else’s book.

I just finished reading “The Martian” by Andy Weir, and while it was a magnificent book, chock-a-block with scientific facts and space terminology that went right over my head, and I found the main character, Mark Watney, to be brilliant and funny, the ending absolutely blew. Completely. In terms of the build-up and amount of suspense gearing up towards the ending, I expected something earth-shattering and irrevocable to happen. Instead (spoiler alert!), it all passed without a hitch and everybody lived happily ever after like a bunch of fairytale princes and princesses living in their castles and sipping on fine, red wine or something. It was as if a fairy godmother had waved a wand at the end and made everything happen perfectly. I wanted tragedy, suspense, excitement, something, an explosion of fireworks like the Fourth of July—but it all fizzled away with barely a spark. The writing, though, was beautiful and I enjoyed every lovely, succinct sentence of it.

Anyway. Back to the topic of this post. A ramble. I do a lot of rambles, simply because I have a lot of thoughts swirling around inside of me which need to be released every now and then, like air from a balloon. My writing is going well, I’m working at a steady pace of several thousand words a day. That might seem like a lot, but it really isn’t, because after editing those thousands of words can probably be pared down to about a thousand words or less, give or take. My writing process kind of goes like this: write an almost stream-of-consciousness piece of writing, blabbering everything about the scene I can onto the page, then edit later, and edit hard. Other people like editing—there are writers who hate the first draft and love the edit, the refining and polishing part—but I actually dislike it, because during the edit, I don’t really experience the scene with colour and bursts of light the way I do when I first blurt it out onto the page.

Instead, it’s like painting gaily and then having to add in the lines and contours to turn the painting into something legible. Something people can recognise. For instance, a line written on its first draft would probably go like “the sun burst through the clouds in rays of sunshine that sparkled and dappled the waters until it looked like it was encrusted with diamonds and Jasmine stepped close to the water, watching as its ripples flowed and receded against the shore” and the edited version would be something like “The sun burst through the cloud, its rays of light sparkling over the dappled waters as if diamonds encrusted the lake’s surface. Jasmine stepped close to the shore of the lake, watching as the ripples of its glittering waters flowed and receded against its banks.” Basically, it’s a bit like tidying your room, except in this case, you’re shuffling around words, punctuation marks and capital letters.

Actually, I think this is the first time I’m ever writing about my writing process, which is strange, considering I’ve been writing for most of my life and my love for writing was the reason I started this blog in the first place. How do I go about creating a book? Easy. You sit at the typewriter and bleed. Just kidding. There’s no blood involved, and I do not use a typewriter, as cool and inconvenient that would be. Instead, it first starts off as a seed of an idea. I won’t tell you my ideas, because that would spoil my future books for you, but say, for instance, the idea is a woman falling in love with a werewolf. Once I get that idea, I start to create what China Mieville calls “a constellation of images” surrounding that particular idea, in that, almost like a film or an animation movie (I tend to imagine my books either as live-action films or animations in the style of The Legend of Korra, my favourite show), scenes start popping into my head, like magic, and I write them down, oftentimes in chronological order. Then, using these images as “fabric”, I stitch together the body of my story.

After that, it’s just a matter of translating that short synopsis into a full-length book, experiencing the world and events through my characters and developing everything from dialogue to world-building as I go along. I write, as I said before, in a stream-of-consciousness, word-vomit kind of way, just splashing whatever I’m thinking onto the page, then spend grueling hours afterwards fixing it, neatening it up and making it look nice. A 60,000 word book, after it has been edited, oftentimes turns into a 45,000 word. Recently, I received an email from a literary agent recommending I transform my supposedly “middle-grade” fiction into an adult novel of 95k words. That’s a lot of words. What’s more, my writing style isn’t complicated enough for adult fiction, and the main character is only eighteen or seventeen (I still need to work out her exact age). So, even though I’ll try to hit 95k, I think I’ll make it a YA (Young Adult) novel instead and see how that works out. If it really doesn’t work, I’ll just have to up my ante and write a more complicated book using bigger words and longer sentences.

Then there’s the incubation phase. It’s crucial to writing a good novel. Even Stephen King, the greatest horror writer who has ever lived, recommends it (although I must admit, I’ve only read The Long Walk by him, since I can’t stand gore and horror fiction at all—like, I’d nearly rather die than watch something extremely gruesome and frightening). An “incubation phase” is when, after you finish a book, you set it aside, preferably start another book while you are waiting, and then, when a couple of months or weeks have passed, depending on your preference, you dig the book back up out of your computer files or that drawer in your desk and re-read it with fresh eyes. Basically, you read it as though you’re reading it for the first time, as a reader instead of a writer, pretending you’re reading someone else’s book. By this point, so much time would have passed that it practically feels like something someone else wrote. This method allows you to spot flaws and plot holes in your writing that you wouldn’t have otherwise because staring at the same piece of writing for months on end can make it hard to spot errors, just like accountants find it difficult to spot mistakes in calculation on a Spreadsheet and might have to take a break and look at it with “fresh eyes” to locate the problem.

Re-reading what I’ve wrote, I’ve realised I’ve made writing seem like a job, with rules and regulations, and other boring stuff, instead of something exciting and glorious. In a way, it is like a job. You show up, you clock in your hours, do your work, return to the real world exhausted after spending so much time in a fantasy world for eight hours. But it’s so much more fun that a regular job, if you like it. You get to spend time with people you love—your characters. You get to explore and go on adventures, just by sitting at home in your chair. It’s marvellous fun, honest, and if you ever get the slightest inclination to write a story, I suggest you do it, not to get published or for worldly fame and riches, but for the pure joy of it.

Happy writing.

 

I Wish I Had A Boyfriend

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After breaking up with my best friend, whom I’ve known for over a year, I’m in a particularly foul mood. I feel very upset. But it had to be done, just like a wound needs to be cauterised for it to heal; she was not good for my mental health, said several things which deeply hurt myself and my family (the kind of things you can’t go back from saying—things surrounding death, life and everything in between) and to be honest with you, I believed it was time to part ways. Toxic relationships do nothing except eat away at you, and I learned long ago, ever since someone in my extended family hurt me very deeply (see my Sexual Harassment Experience), that it’s better to cut ties with someone who isn’t healthy for you and hurts you rather than cling in the hope things will get better for the fear of being lonely and having no-one to talk to. Problems had been building for while, she’d said several hurtful things in the past that I ignored and brushed under the carpet even though they cut me to the core, I kept making excuses for her, even when she acted incredibly badly and said things which made me feel as though someone had ripped open my chest and tore my heart out—and one day, I woke up, and realised enough was enough. I’ve had enough monsters for one lifetime.

But this post isn’t about my ex-best friend. No. This is about my future boyfriend. Something positive or negative, depending on how you look at it. I’ve wanted a boyfriend for a very long time. It’s not because everyone else has a boyfriend or because I’ve been brainwashed by the media into believing the key to happiness lies in the attainment of romantic love or some other shtick like that. It’s something more than that. There’s just something incredibly comforting about the male presence (when it is wanted) that I’ve missed since my father left me. Of course, I have plenty of love from my mother and siblings, but it’s not the same, is it, compared to a proper, male presence. I can’t explain what exactly it is, but men have this way of carrying themselves, this aura, this almost swashbuckling, braggardly, boyish feel about them, which I find very comforting and appealing. It’s as if—and I suppose this is the case—men and women are meant to live together, to bring their energies together and exist in harmony and peace. Without the combination of the two energies, one feels as though one is operating at half the level of strength one should be exuding.

There’s nothing in the world like a man that cares for you and loves you deeply. It really is something else. To find one, well, that is something else, too, because it’s so incredibly difficult. In capitalist societies, too often men and women retreat into the world of technology and consumerism in an attempt to assuage their own loneliness instead of reaching out to each other, and I’m no different. When I go outside, if I see someone particularly handsome, I’d rather eat my own hat (well, who wears hats these days, anyway? I’d eat my own t-shirt, since it’s the summer in Australia right now) than go up to them and talk to them, ask them about their day, start “chatting them up”. I physically cannot do it. Make the first move, I mean. I honestly think it’s not in my blood. Or I’m just a coward.

Does anyone else understand what I’m talking about, this desire for a comforting male “presence”? It’s like being in the glow of something soft and warm, like a fireplace, when you are shivering and cold. That’s exactly what it’s like. I suppose I can explain it after all, although in metaphors. I guess it’s only natural for women to be drawn to men and vice versa, it is how our species has survived this far. It’s biological, psychological, spiritual, societal. Love winds up in everything, from the entertainment industry to why we wage wars against other people. And I’m missing it. It really does feel as though I’m a puzzle with half the pieces missing. Like everyone is inside, inured from the cold, while I’m out in the snow, trying to trace my own footprints to find my way home.

I go on Instagram sometimes, scrolling through photographs of couples kissing each other on the cheek, or watch boyfriend-or-husband-tags on Youtube, and a wistfulness comes over me, like clouds across a prairie. I want that, I think, silently, to myself. Will I ever have that? My mouth pinches into a cold sort of expression and I retreat into myself, hands clasping in my lap.

Maybe I’ll end up as the strange little woman with a small cottage filled with cats who wears mismatched scarves and scowls at children on the street as she makes her daily walks throughout the village. You know, the crazy cat lady, with wild eyes and bedraggled hair, unloved until the very end. Some part of me honestly believes that will happen, because at this stage in my life, I can’t imagine ever bumping into someone magically and starting a relationship which ends in marriages and babies and a house with a picket fence. It just seems—-absurd. Unimaginable. How do people meet people, anyway? I certainly don’t meet anyone as I go about my days. Not a single person catches my eye lately, and even if they do, it never leads anywhere, it’s not as if they’ll just suddenly fall in love with me sitting across from me on the train or the bus and sit next to me and introduce themselves like in the movies and books. That doesn’t happen.

And I’m picky. Incredibly picky. The guy for has to be—well, he doesn’t have to be good-looking. He doesn’t have to be rich. He just has to have that special something about him, a kind of innocence and purity, kindness and gentleness, creativity and uniqueness. I’m a sucker for very pure-hearted and innocent guys. He would remind me of me, before I was tainted by society and other people. Worldly guys, wise guys, super-brave tough guys, smart guys—they’re all well and good. But give me a simple and innocent man any time of the day.

I just don’t know if it’ll ever happen and that’s depressing on one level and downright miserable on another. I’m getting older. Not too old, but old enough to start dating, to have that sweetheart and plans for marriage in the offing. I’m not a little girl anymore, or a teenager—-I’m an adult. It’s about time. All my friends are pairing off, left, right and centre, I’m left alone, unmoored, wondering when my day will come.

I think the movies lied. I think books lie. I think I’ve been lied to, you know. I don’t think the fairytale ending exists, and even if it does, I don’t think it happens to everyone. It’s just mathematically not possible. My “soulmate” might be wandering on the planet somewhere but what are the chances I’ll ever meet them and actually get the chance to fall in love with them? Very low, I’m assuming. Sure, heaps of people fall in love and get married everyday, but there are also heaps of lonely and unloved people, who never find their prince or princess. Who live their lives until the end of the days without ever experiencing what it’s like to be in love.

Yes, I’m in a foul mood. In case you couldn’t tell.

My High school Crush

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All teenagers go through a period where they have a “crush” on someone, oftentimes a startling strong desire or affection for a single human being, whether a boy or a girl, whom they just can’t stop thinking about, no matter what their friends say or the small detail that the object of their affection doesn’t even know they exist.

This was mine.

He was tall (aren’t they all?). For the sake of this article, let’s call him “Brad”, even though his real name is far more scintillating and handsome.

Ahem. Anyway.

Brad was extremely tall, dark-haired and dark-eyed, and drop-dead gorgeous. He had this way of walking, slouching a little, that made him seem look so skinny yet masculine, and I loved him with all my heart throughout the course of my high school years.

And, in a typical shy-girl fashion, I never even spoke a word to him. Never.

In fact, the thought of saying anything to him made me want to simultaneously explode and implode at the same time.

I snuck glances at him.

I wrote stories about him, in which he always featured as the dashing handsome prince.

I pretended to be Brad’s wife, using his last name as my own, smiling at the way it sounded, the “ring” to it.

Whenever I passed him by in the corridors, or I sat in front of him in class, I concentrated on the beauty of his laugh, bursting forth from that beautiful mouth, and prayed every night to one day be his girlfriend.

It didn’t happen.

One day, I got the chance to sit next to him in the library. I just sidled up to him and sat down. I don’t know what made me do it. Probably blind optimism and a measure of desperation, because I’d been crushing on him for 5 or 6 years and barely spoken a word to him except when he asked me for my marks on an English test to compare his score with mine (I was the class nerd back then, and took my studies very seriously, and tended to score the highest mark in the class on most tests) and just sat there, my heart beating fast, my brain feeling as though it was about to ooze out of my ears, concentrating on a book so hard I wouldn’t have noticed if it had been upside-down.

He said, “Hello.”

I looked up.

My cheeks crimsoned. “Hi,” I said.

He proceeded to launch into an ordinary conversation about the upcoming prom or graduation night. That was it. I was gone. It was as if none of his words were registering, as if I were hearing it all underwater; and a moment later, I was staring at him like a gaping fish, and he was waiting for an answer to a question I hadn’t heard. I smiled, quickly, and said, “Sorry, if you’ll excuse me for a moment…” And I fled.

For the rest of highschool, believe it or not, I didn’t speak to him. Not once. Ever again. I just watched him from afar, and gradually, my feelings dissipated, and I realised he wasn’t as great I’d thought him to be.

Seen without the rose-tinted glasses, he was quite proud and arrogant, and although friendly, tended to be friendly with other people only when the other popular kids weren’t around. When they were, he focused on them, on being part of the “in-group” and other, less popular kids suddenly became invisible.

He ignored me on two counts after that, when a pretty, popular girl was around, not replying to my question entirely and turning away to speak to the pretty girl, leaving me gobsmacked and hurt. I got over him, eventually, and now I hear he is dating this girl who was in our year, popular as heck and just as beautiful. Well, let bygones be bygones, right?

I wish there was a good ending to this, or that I learned something really great or special about people or myself from this, but the truth was, in retrospect, it was just a silly crush, on a silly boy, and once I looked at things with a bit of perspective, I realised I hadn’t been attracted to him at all, but simply the idea of him.

I was crushing on a fabrication of my mind, which, I’m sure, is prevalent as heck in one’s teen years (if the manic pixie dream girl trope is anything to go by). I can’t believe, when I think back on it now, that I was so besotted and afraid to speak to an ordinary, human being for 5-6 years, just because I thought he was popular, gregarious, good-looking and therefore completely out of my league, and if I could go back in time as I am now, mature and understanding, I would’ve been able to speak to him without skipping a beat and look him straight in the eye.

These days, I’m the one getting propositioned by men, receiving the attention I never did in my high school years, but deep down, somewhere, I still feel like an ugly duckling, the shy girl who was too afraid of sticking up for herself when the boy she loved paid no attention to her at all.

And I’m not sure if that’s ever going to go away.

Black Cat Day

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I don’t know what the topic of this blog post will be about. Generally, I map and plan out my posts beforehand, using a series of dot points, so that I can hit each of the points that I’m trying to make and the post flows properly. But today, I just decided to sit down and write. I’m in a curious mood. I do apologise if I ever bore you with my rambles—they’re sort of like diary entries, and I’m sure I’m not a very interesting person. Still, if you can read this and feel a little less alone in this world, then my writing will have accomplished its purpose.
I oftentimes feel a little disconnected from everything, like I’m waiting for something exciting to happen, although I don’t quite know what. I suppose that’s why people like to go on trips and holidays to other parts of the world: it shakes up life, turns it upside-down and makes it interesting and exciting. Would a holiday make me feel better? I’m not sure. It’s not as if I can afford one. Really, I’ve even been exploring different story-lines, venturing into the world of romance writing instead of fantasy, in an effort to shake myself out of this funk. I wish I knew what I was trying to say; life just feels dull, and boring, and I myself feel supremely dissatisfied for no reason in particular.
Maybe if I go clubbing at night, or find a boyfriend, or finish my studies and begin an occupation which takes up most of my time and energy—maybe then, I’ll feel a little more fulfilled.

Of course, I do feel happy, knowing I am a child of God, but this dissatisfaction I’ve been feeling lately has nothing to do with the soul, and everything to do with my heart. My heart is unhappy. Do you ever feel as though society is numb and dull, that every time you venture out in the outside world, people are bored and staring out the window or at their phones, waiting for life to become magical and meaningful? I get that feeling a lot. I can’t help but feel the sense that everyone is dissatisfied on some level, which is why capitalism exists in the first place, to get us to try to assuage this dissatisfaction by buying goods and services which bring us pleasure and happiness.
I’ve read many books, watched many movies, listened to many songs, but all of them seem trite and overdone now, none of them exciting and satisfying. It’s as if I’m bored of humanity itself, and all its creations and wonders. Even my favourite books and movies bore me. Perhaps I am depressed. It’s not the first time something like this has happened. In the past, I’ve been so depressed I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning. But this feels different from depression. This feels like a reconciliation with the fact that life will never feel as satisfying as we hope for it to be, and I’m taking it badly. I’m also overloaded on sugar, as I type this, because whenever I get depressed, I start popping lollies like pills, so I’m a little bit buzzed. I haven’t written anything worthy for a while—all my fiction seems terrible and bad. I sometimes wonder if I will ever make it as a writer. It’s not like I have any talent, says a voice in my head. You just have a couple of good concepts and ideas, that’s all. It’s not like anything of yours has ever been published yet. And so on and so forth.
This is such a bad ramble, I’m even beginning to bore myself and run out of things to say. I mean, maybe I just need to get out there and find a boyfriend and live the typical life. Maybe what God has in store for me is marvellous and wonderful and I just have to be patient. So much can happen in a year, let alone a lifetime. I want to be someone else, I now realise. I wish I had someone else’s life. And yet, at the same time, I don’t, and am perfectly happy being myself and living the life I do have. It’s a strange contradiction. I kind of want the Heavens to open up and fairies to exist and to be swept up on a magical whirlwind of an adventure to Neverland or someplace magical. Or to live in a romance novel, slowly falling in love with a man I believed I initially hated. Or a science fiction novel, catapulted into the future where invisible walls and mind-reading devices exist. What I wouldn’t give to be transported into the future right now and get a peek at what the world 100 years from now looks like. How strange and marvellous it will be! What wonderful books and films will have been created!

I kind of want to live in an all-girl’s dormitory at a boarding school and have adventures. That would be fun. Or to live in the world of Howl’s Moving Castle, where magic lurks on every doorstep. Or maybe I’m just going through a creative drought at the moment, where all my inspiration has dried-up and I’m left scrabbling for husks of ideas. It could be anything, really, that triggered this mood. I think I’ll make up a new word for this mood. I think I’ll call this mood Black Cat Day. It feels right, somehow: the feeling you get, when a black cat crosses your path. That’s how I feel. Like a black cat has crossed my path, and now I feel a niggling sense of worry and dissatisfaction the entire day. So, Yours Truly is having a Black Cat Day, and there’s nothing that can stop it happening. I hereby christen this name as my own creation—no-one is allowed to take it, mind (only joking; you can use it however you like!)

So, what’s the cure for a Black Cat Day? I’m not sure, since this is the first time I’m experiencing it. I think in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it’s called the Mean Reds. All the same thing, really: a time in one’s life or one’s day or week or month or year when everything feels dreary and wrong, and as if it will never get any better. Let me think. Since Black Cat Day is a feeling of darkness and bad luck, maybe the opposite, good luck, will cure it. What constitutes as good luck? Seeing a rainbow. Maybe. That sort of thing. In the real world, that would probably mean getting a call from a publisher or winning a ticket to go on a five-day cruise or something else marvellous like that. But it can’t be just miracles that can cure a Black Cat Day. There’s got to be something else. I just don’t know what.

One thing I do know, though. Unlike Holly Golightly, going to Tiffany’s won’t cure it.

I Sometimes Wish I Was A Bath-Salts, Lush-bath-bomb, Christmas-tree Decorating…

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I sometimes wish I was a bath-salts, Lush bath bomb, Christmas-tree decorating, perfume-fanatic, Bath-and-Body-works-shopping, make-up collecting, apartment-renting young woman in her twenties who always smells like her favourite Vera Wang perfume with a pet dog and a neatly-stocked fridge full of kale chips and free-range chicken and went to work at an office for a magazine writing articles about men and women and relationships with coffee from Starbucks on my office table and wore dangly earrings and black, short dresses when I go out at night and party with my girlfriends had a boyfriend named James who loves me and loves to wear sweaters and suits and works at a law firm and we’d meet his mum and dad who own their own home out in West Virginia and have enchiladas and come back to his house to make love to the sound of Michael Buble warbling from the Google Home Mini in a bedroom filled with scented candles in a house filled with scented candles and wear Christmas-themed slippers and eat gingerbread and lick candycanes and cook turkey together with red oven mitts stitched with tiny hollies along its wrist-hem and have nights where I’m tired from work and just drink a glass of red wine while binge-watching on my plasma TV on my cream sofa and eating a light healthy snack of popcorn and wear Pandora jewellery not the bead-bracelet one because that’s for moms but delicate sterling silver jewellery like a heart-shaped ring and a necklace with a heart-shaped charm and own a Tiffany necklace with the signature Tiffany blue heart and listen to Taylor Swift and love Harry Potter and love books like the ones by Zoe Sugg or the Fault In Our Stars or City of Bones and have an Instagram page filled with cute photographs of my lovely, ordinary life and go to the shops and buy an iPhone charger because my old one broke and have a cup of coffee at a cafe and look cute in big, geeky glasses and go to Trader Joe’s to buy organic salads and dog food and freshly-squeezed orange juice by a brand named CitrusLite my favourite brand that cold-presses its juices so its extra fresh and go online shopping to buy cute summer dresses and shirts and jewellery and bags and do a haul with them online on my special beauty-fashion-lifestyle Youtube channel that has about 350,000 subscribers with a username like Holly Chung and a degree in communications and creative writing and have strong opinions about feminism and a political stance on women’s rights because I’m so progressive and watch videos online in my spare time on unique hairstyles and nail art which I try to copy then give up and go to a professional hair stylist or nail artist and get my hair and nails done and treat myself to a Starbucks coffee because I deserve it and change my job to work at a trendier, more upcoming magazine where the floor plan of the office is colourful and there’s a room filled with snacks practically like a grocery store and a ping-pong table and TV and Wii consoles for the employees to unwind and James proposes to me on his knees at the restaurant where we had our first date and he gets the restaurant workers to come out and hold up signs that read “Will You Marry Me?” and it goes dark and all candle-lit and the other patrons are clapping and cheering as he stands up smiling because I said “yes” and slips the diamond -ring on my finger and it’s so beautiful and I kiss him and laugh and smile like something out of a Hallmark greeting card ad in my fancy dress with my fancy earrings and high-heels that cost $95 and then there are the wedding plans and the bucket-load of money and stress that is spent on it and maybe I have a breakdown about it and smudge my make-up and James comforts me and hugs me and tells me it’s not about how perfect the wedding is it’s about our relationship and our relationship becomes stronger than ever and my father walks me down the aisle even though I didn’t grow up in the perfect nuclear family and had step-brothers growing up and everyone is clapping and cheering as I in my beautiful white dress smiling like a beautiful bride with my hair done up and my make-up making me look like a princess and the priest ordaining the ceremony says we’re married and we kiss and there’s the wedding reception where there’s food and we cut the cake and there’s music playing and people are drinking and everyone laughs obligingly as my husband and I dance a crazy dance for the benefit of the audience then a slow romantic dance which is meant to be oh-so-romantic and I post my entire wedding for hundreds and thousands of people to see on my Youtube channel and photographs of it on my Instagram page which is filled with pictures of me and my “hubby” captioned with words like “I found the man of my dreams and he comes in a red Santa suit” and me kissing my husband as he’s dressed in a Santa suit which I got my friend to capture because I’m so funny and witty as hell and go on a honeymoon to Bora Bora or Greece and vlog about it and post it on my Youtube channel so everyone can see the marvellous time we had and how much we love each other and have secret nights no-one ever talks about where my husband and I explore each other’s bodies in the dark secrecy of our rooms an event which no-one not even our relatives can imagine and only joke about in passing such as talking about how our baby was conceived and laughing at the sexual joke because oh we’re such grown-ups look at us talking about sex in this witty, vague way and of course I’m pregnant and I tell my mum and dad they’re getting grandkids and they’re so happy and I tell my girlfriends through Facetime and they squeal and act as happy as they should and I edit videos and vlogs as my belly bump gets bigger and I feed on large quantities of rich food like chicken drumsticks and potato cream and chives talking about my cravings on my vlog because I live in a first-world country and can eat whatever I like never mind the fact that’s it’s all from Trader Joes and therefore super expensive because I’m socially privileged as well because of my job and education and I go to a Taylor Swift concert after the baby is born with my girlfriends because they think I deserve a break from being a mom and we decked out an entire room and changed the wallpaper to a pattern of pink rattles tied with blue bows and with a cot that cost about $2000 dollars and a pram that cost around $999 and an abundance of toys that are educational and we go through so many diapers it’s amazing the planet hasn’t choked to death and I become a “mommy” Youtuber and have decided to do Youtube full-time and stop working at the magazine even though the job had its perks and make an entire Youtube video entirely titled “Why I Quit My Job” which brings in heaps of revenue because of the clickbait title and all the views it gets even though it cost no effort at all and my baby’s name is Lilly and she’s so cute and chubby and so cute cute cute and I dress her up in baby clothes from Target because I’m economical and she’s just going to grow out of them anyway and feed her pureed food I make myself everyday six times a day and do vlogs where I show my daughter interacting with my dog a white-haired pomeranian and sign up to a subscription box $60 per month where I get goodies in the mail once a month in a box such as lipsticks in the brand Cordelia and snacks such as chocolate-covered sultanas and mugs such pretty mugs which they sponsor me to advertise in videos on my Youtube channel use this code Holly-Chung to get 10% off your first purchase and go through a miscarriage and get a record-level of views for my tear-stained face on my vlogs but soon there’s another baby and everyday I do my make-up routine with light foundation and lipstick and mascara and eyeshadow and go to a beautician to get my legs waxed and hair removed from my face gotta get rid of that upper lip hair and my eyebrows trimmed and go out to eat at restaurants with friends and family where the bill can go up to $300 not including wine and maybe be a little daring and get a tattoo of my Patronus charm an otter on my left arm with the words “expecto patronum” tattooed underneath it in swirly script which I show on Instagram and my vlogs and maybe even devote an entire video to “My Tattoo” and consider maybe doing ASMR videos because they’re so popular and I want more money for my family so we can afford nice things for ourselves and have a loving relationship with my hubby where we have sex two times a week and celebrate our anniversaries by leaving the kids with the grandparents and vlog us going to the movies and having a nice meal together with wine and go on holidays to Japan or Disneyworld with the family or Harry Potter world and by this point I’m super maternal so so much of my Youtube channel is devoted to being a mum and “What My Child Eats In A Day” and I live my life happily after moving out of the apartment and into a family home which is absolutely gorgeous and doing a “House Tour” of it and then redecorating and redoing parts of the house like the kitchen and the bathroom so it’s all to my taste and hiring an interior designer for it because my house is like so important and my home so it has to be the best it can be and my children grow up in a world where they drink vegetable smoothies every morning and try to avoid sugar except on special occasions and do well in school and go on dates and go to prom and get a good GPA because they inherited their mommy and daddy’s good genes and goes to college—

—and then the whole cycle starts all over again. Maybe. Perhaps with some virtual reality thrown in. Eye implants that digitalize the real world. And a whole lotta environmental troubles.

A Half-Awake Ramble

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It’s a funny thing, love.

Rather strange.

It’s completely uncontrollable. You couldn’t possibly control it—you couldn’t possible force it, not in a million years. Not with the all the money and promises in the world.

I’m in a bit of a melancholy mood today. I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood, and of my teenage years, the strange sort of happiness that comes with “youth” (I place youth in quotation marks simply because I’m still considered quite young, at the tender age of 21) and being oblivious to the world and all it holds. If anything, as I’ve grown older, and learned more about the world, I’ve grown more jaded and old, not old in the physical sense, but in my mind and my heart. I feel as though I trust people far less, that I’ve seen the ugly side of life, seen the scabs and wounds underneath the make-up and masks, realised the truth of people’s hearts and found out what motivations lie behind people’s tick-ticking eyes.

I’ve always thought I needed to dig deep within myself to find the characters I write about, to flesh out their hopes, dreams and desires—and that’s what I do. But in doing so, I’ve realised how little I truly understand myself. Sure, I am quite self-aware and introspective—anyone who glances at my blog can tell you that—but who I really am, deep in the innermost parts of my heart, is sometimes a mystery even to myself, just like my characters, no matter well I write them, always have parts of themselves that surprise even me. Am I surprising? Do you ever ask yourself that question? Do you ever wonder what lies at the core of you, what you would do under extreme situations or pressure, who would come rearing out of you, a lion or a lamb? As I type this, I’m listening to a childhood favourite song of mine from the Lizzie McGuire movie called “What Dreams Are Made of”. It’s tune is so reminiscent of my childhood it makes my heart ache just to listen to it. I remember what my childhood was like—idyllic. Incredibly idyllic. A happy family, a happy home. Before my father left me. Before the man I loved with all my heart abandoned me. Before I realised that not even my father was strong enough to shelter me from the world’s pain. I grew up with books, movies and films, outings, visits to restaurants—we didn’t have much, but since we grew up in a first-world country, we had enough, and whatever money was leftover after the bills were paid were lavished upon myself and my siblings. I was lucky. I still am.

It’s strange how much of a hold your biological parents and siblings have over your life, especially if you’ve grown up with them. It’s a kind of bond entirely different from the kind you make with people who do not share your blood, or you haven’t grown up around, a kind of deep-seated familiarity nothing can undo. Then again, sometimes I scorn this relationship—aren’t the relationships we choose later on in life just as strong? But no, there’s something about growing up with someone that strengthens a relationship like nothing else. And it can’t be faked. If you’re biological family member was an absolute terror, there’s no changing that, and you couldn’t force yourself to love them, even if you tried.

I’m wondering about the next chapter of my life. The chapter of my life where I fall in love and have children, build a home of my own. I’m wondering about that. I’m also wondering about how many jealous and cruel people there are in the world. For some reason, I seem to attract them the way food attracts flies. And don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing particularly special about me, not my looks, not my intelligence, not in the way I carry myself; but I’m certain there’s a look in my eyes I get sometimes, as if they’re staring out at the sky instead of at you, that makes me people feel on edge around me and wonder if I’ll become more than they’ll ever be, even if it is only imaginary.

Children. A husband. A house. Holidays and money. The ordinary life. In an ordinary world. Is that what I want? Is that the life I’m headed towards? I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed beyond having a book published and for it to be enjoyed by people all over the world. I honestly haven’t really looked at my life beyond that. I haven’t craved things, like mansions or visits to five-star hotels. With the internet at my fingertips, and the ability to imagine myself into any magical world I desire, I have to admit, I am quite content, if not completely at ease. I sometimes wonder if I spend far too much time in the world of the imaginary than reality. My mother always complains that I’m off thinking about “magic” when I should face the real world and think about my future employment opportunities—but the real world is so dreary and boring, so awfully real, that I can’t help but want to retreat into books, films and movies, where everything is lovely and entrancing. I can’t help it. Oftentimes—heck, what am I saying, all the time—the magical worlds inside books and films seem more real and life-like than the real world, even though one is meant to be only a facsimile and imitation of the other. I mean, there’s nothing like a real person, is there, compared to a character? People are usually never so interesting as characters, and sometimes, characters are far more interesting than real, live people. Or it’s the other way around. Characters are exaggerations and unrealistic, full of quirks and hopes manufactured by the writer, while real people, made of blood, flesh and bone, are realistic, and have motivations and passions ruled by real hearts and minds.

Honestly, it’s very late, and this is just a stream-of-consciousness spewing forth from my mind; I hardly know what I am saying. I just finished reading a book called “Memoirs of a Geisha”, it was a marvellous book, but it made me feel terribly inferior about my own writing, because the writer’s prose is absolutely perfect and glides along from sentence to sentence, page to page, like a swan. I sometimes wonder why I am alive. I really do. Is it just to live an ordinary life, to live and die, or does some great destiny await me? Am I special at all, if everyone else in the world has these same thoughts sometimes, and why, in the world, do I want to be so special, anyway, except for the sake of my ego?

It really is strange. I want to belong, yet I want to stand out. I think, deep down, everyone feels this way, this desire to be special and different but accepted, recognised and loved. I think, in the end, it comes back full circle: we all want to be loved. To be accepted. To belong. When it happens, we are content, but when it doesn’t, we start to hurt ourselves and each other, turn nasty and jealous, cruel and conniving. I’ve had peculiar instances of people trying to gain the upper hand or intimidate me, from placing a hand on the same pole I am gripping on a bus and staring snootily down at me, to getting on her scooter and going faster than me the moment I started to run and glancing over her shoulder to see how far she had left me behind, to speaking outright insults to my face. And I wonder if they were all searching for love, or lacking some kind of love, deep inside. If someone had just made their dreams come true or their husband properly kiss them or their job a little more pleasant, would they have treated me that way?

I better go to sleep. This post is already turning into an essay, as all of my posts tend to do. I wish you a good night (or a good morning or afternoon, depending on your time-zone), and I hope you find love in your life. I hope if anyone picks on you, you remember that you are a child of God and stronger than them—but also to remember to bless them, because those who hurt you are in great pain themselves. They hurt you in order to try and take their pain out on you, but it never works. It never does.

The Secret To Happiness

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I think there’s something more I want from life, and that everyone feels this way, on some level, this desire for more. Not more wealth, or fame, or love—in fact, it’s longing for something entirely different, which no-one on this planet can name.

You can have all the fame in the world you could possibly want, fans fawning and falling over at your feet; all the romantic experiences you could imagine, whisked off your feet by the most handsome man possible or have the most beautiful woman in your arms; you could be the richest person on the planet; the most talented and creative and bright; the most beautiful; surrounded by family, children and loved ones; go on fantastic holidays and try beautiful, savoury foods, buy and wear the latest fashions; be surrounded by nature and butterflies, lying beside a bubbling brook in the grass with the sunshine on your face; read the most brilliant books and watch the most amazing films and listen to exquisite music; write and publish twenty books and become a bestselling author; live in mansions and cottages—and yet, still, some part of you will still feel the desire for something more. There will always be that dissatisfaction, niggling at the core of you, like a worm in the centre of a rich, glossy apple.

I think that’s where God comes in. I think religion and God, as whole, as a concept, has become a little careworn. People read the words “religion” or “God” and something within them sighs or deflates a little, because we’re venturing into the territory of the invisible and airy-fairy, that only a select group of people on this planet seem to believe in. Well, I honestly believe that God—whatever you want to call it, Source, Universe, Creator, or Whatever Made Everything—-is where we will truly feel at home and all dissatisfaction fades away. Can you honestly tell me that there is nothing behind all this exists in the Universe? Of course there’s something. There’s far too much complexity, beauty and loveliness just on planet Earth for nothing to have been behind everything. The fact that you admit that means you can entertain the possibility of there being a God.

“There will always be that dissatisfaction, niggling at the core of you, like a worm in the centre of a rich, glossy apple.”

See, we spend our lives chasing “dreams”. What are these dreams? These dreams are basically things we believe we need to acquire to be happy. One day, we say, when we get these things, we’ll have “made it” and “be happy”. For me, the storyline I always tell myself is, once I’m published, and a best-selling author, I’ll be happy and my life will be complete. That’s not true. In fact, I just laughed a little myself for once believing that. It’s not true, because there’s always going to be something else we want, that whatever was interesting and shiny at first will lose our interest, and our eyes will be after the next, bright thing. I can totally imagine myself publishing a book, getting used to it after a year or so, and treating it like a commonplace, ordinary thing. What, my book? Oh yeah, it’s just sitting there on the shelf. Yes, it’s sold that many copies. Yes. What do you want to have dinner? We’re like magpies, constantly trying to hoard treasures without realising the greatest treasure is right before our eyes—the feel of our wings in the air, the sunlight on our beak. In other words, our connection to the Source, to the Universe, is the greatest source of happiness there is.

I can’t tell you how big of a revelation this is. It goes against everything society, advertising and motivational coaches encourage us to believe in, that if we just work hard enough, are talented and lucky enough, we can get everything we want and live in cushy happiness forever. You want to know a secret amongst the wealthy, beautiful, talented and famous that no-one tells you? Deep down, they’re dissatisfied. Immensely. Sure, they might be able to hide it behind flashy Instagram pics of parties and meeting famous people, or distract themselves with alcohol and the comforting presence of family and friends, but deep, deep down, when they’re alone sitting in their bedrooms, or about to go to sleep, or reach for that second glass of wine—they’re lonely, and dissatisfied.

“There’s far too much complexity, beauty and loveliness just on planet Earth for nothing to have been behind everything. The fact that you admit that means you can entertain the possibility of there being a God.”

What is fulfilment? Yes, fulfilment does come from helping other people. It does come from being around nature, planting trees, gardening, animals. Good food, tasty flavours spreading over the tongue. Family and friends. Creative pursuits, and recognition for one’s work. But all of that is just—glitter and fireworks. They’re decoration. They’re not the guts and meat of life. What is the core of life? God. God is the core of life. Without Him (or Her, it really doesn’t matter, since God is genderless), we would have nothing, and without a connection to him, we will forever be lost, empty shells, searching for our way back home.

So much of what society dangles before you, like a carrot on a stick, is fake. False. Take love, for instance. Women are taught to dream, by books, films, of a handsome man who will kiss them until they are breathless and cradle them in the security of their arms. But you know what really happens, when you get to know someone and marry them? If you’re disconnected from the Source, no matter how much great sex you have, or how much you supposedly “love” each other, you’ll always be distant and removed from each other, lonely in each other’s arms, playing at a charade of love, because you aren’t connected to the greatest love of all, God’s love. This idea that a man will protect you from the world, that a woman will ease your troubles—all that is false. Who is really there for you in the end, the very, bitter end, is not your children, not your family, not your lover, not your friends, but God, and God alone. Only he will cradle you in His arms as you ascend to Heaven (depending on what you believe) or re-join as atoms the rest of the Universe.

So banish from your mind the thought that “getting” something will make you happy. It won’t. That sense of dissatisfaction that you feel, on lonely Sunday afternoons, when time seems to tick away slowly and you have nothing to do and are bored? When it feels as though nothing in the world could ever fill the void inside your chest? That’s how you will always feel, regardless of how great your life is, if you don’t realise you are connected to something far bigger than yourself, than your petty troubles and worries. That you are a beautiful work of art, knitted of bones and flesh. And once you realise that, you’ll have discovered the secret to happiness.

What This INFP Thinks About Money

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I’m in a funny mood today, the kind of mood where I wish something magical and exciting would happen, right on my doorstep, so that I can be blasted out of my everyday, humdrum existence. 

I’ve been posting on this blog of mine a little more often lately, partly because I’ve been inspired more often, but also because I have decided to treat blogging like a second job. While it doesn’t exactly bring in an income, I have received a small sum of money over time through my Patreon page, certainly not enough to live on, but enough to buy some food for a couple of days, and I am so grateful to those who took the time and effort to donate and help me out. That doesn’t mean that I’ll love you more just because you donate to me—I adore all of my readers equally—but I must admit, having that extra cash meant I felt as though my writing and the extraneous services I provide had some sort of monetary value in this world, no matter how little.

Obviously, blogging isn’t a full-time job for me—in fact, it’s not even a part-time job. I researched my blog online, on one of those calculate-your-blog’s-net-worth-site’s, and I found my blog was valued at around $200, which, in the grand scheme of things, is quite a pittance, especially for the hours of work and effort I’ve poured into maintaining it, the time I’ve spent conjuring up blog ideas and then sitting at my desk, typing out the words one by one, sometimes easily, sometimes excruciatingly. But, thankfully, I got into blogging for the love of it, and somehow, I kept it up, 6 or so years have passed, I have met hundreds of wonderful people through this blog, and enjoyed every single minute of it, and that’s something no money in the world can ever buy.

In the past, I wouldn’t have dreamed of mentioning money when it comes to writing or art—at the tender age of 16 or 17, I would have scoffed at you, and stated that art, or writing, or creative pursuits, have a value no money in the world could ever purchase. I was wrong. Now, at 21, I’ve grown up a bit, and realised the power of and meaning behind money. Money, in a way, creates a concrete system whereby we determine what has value in society. Only if we value something very deeply or need something completely are we able to part with money in exchange for it. For instance, if I had to choose between buying books or buying food, in the past, I would have boasted about how I would buy books instead of food, because that’s how “committed” I am to the world of art. Nonsense. If I’m starving, and I have experienced being hungry a couple of times over the past 4 years of my life, simply because after rent and electricity sometimes there isn’t enough money left over for enough food, I am bound to choose food over books, no matter how important art is for me, because if I’m starving, I don’t have the concentration to read the books anyway, and if I’m dead, what use are books to me?

Money is highly important. It’s why the entertainment and book industry always suffers, always goes through highs and lows, and people in high positions and business suits rub their hands and fret over the “future of the industry”, because they know art isn’t a necessity! For most of the world, art isn’t even in their radar—they’re too busy figuring out ways to survive to self-actualise. So, really, art is a luxury, a gift and a damn luxury, available only to those rich enough to have their basic needs of food, shelter and clothing covered before ascending up the pyramid of needs. In that sense, I’m very, very lucky.

So, money is important. Extremely important. I looked down on money a lot in my younger years, and I think this is not uncommon among INFPs. I thought money was the bane of all evil, because it forced me to get a “normal job” and slave away at an occupation that allowed me no room for joy or creativity. I even considered living in a van or out of the back of a car, in order to escape the capitalist demands of society. All that has changed. Without money, the world would not exist. Without it, I wouldn’t have the internet, this laptop, my bed, the food in my fridge—nothing. It’s a bartering tool, a form of exchange: it’s the reason we can work at one job, and exchange those sweat, blood and tears spent during those 8 hours of the day for other items, like food or a ticket to the movies or a place to sleep. 

And when it comes to art, unfortunately, if you want to make a living in this world, your art has to be monetised, too. The reason artists struggle is because people like the idea of getting art for free. That’s why we have billions of pirated movies, books and films, an entire chunk of the internet devoted to the theft of the creative works of creative people. Somehow, the idea that art and money shouldn’t be linked has pervaded every part of society, to the point where people believe musicians, artists, writers and actors should practically work for free. The better the art is, the more in-demand it is, and the more copyright laws surround it—in other words, the less its availability on the internet for free—means the greater the chance it will turn a profit, and people will actually hand over actual money in return for it. Otherwise, you might as well be working 8 hours at a job, and getting nothing to show for it except the “joy” and “creativity” of it. But will that feed you? No. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean I’ll start monetising my blog any-time soon. For one, it’s because the profit margin would be low, since it costs around $100 a year to monetise this blog in the first place, and from advertising revenue, at my current rate of daily views, I would only earn around $200 per annum. Still an extra $100, but why take the risk, when I’m only basing my earnings on an estimate? Two, the idea of paying my readers to read my content is abhorrent to me—I write because I love it, and I would never dream of asking my blog readers to have to fork over cash in order to have access to my words. Perhaps there’s still a little bit of the idealist left in me after all, despite all my growing up.

Of course, I have considered other ways of earning money through this blog. My Patreon page has been a reasonable success—I have been able to help several people with their INFP life problems (here is my Patreon page, if you’re interested: https://www.patreon.com/dreamerrambling) through phone calls, Skype messaging and emails, which has been very fulfilling for me, to the point where I’m almost considering turning it into a career, creating my own website and becoming a source of support and a counsellor for other INFPs and other people all over the world. Then again, I always feel guilty for taking people’s money, even though they give it to me out of the kindness of their heart, because I know not everyone who seeks out these services are wealthy, and they oftentimes are struggling themselves, which makes me want to give all my services for free (you cannot imagine how many emails I received when I first started this blog, asking for INFP advice) but then means I can’t eat or keep a roof over my head, which means I can’t help them, which means—

Yeah. You get the drift.

 

Money. It’s annoying, but we need it.