Music and Other Musings

Category: Life

Cambodia, 3 Months Late

After several intense months at work, I was desperately in need of a getaway to recharge. Cambodia was a place I had been vaguely thinking of visiting for the past few years so I figured I might as well go now. My trip spanned 19 to 24 November 2016 and I divided my time between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. As I only had two-and-a-half days in Phnom Penh, my itinerary was rather predictable and covered the usual stops of a typical first-timer’s visit. First up was the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide, or S21 as it is known to locals. The former high school was where prisoners of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime were held. I wandered in and out of rooms gazing at the exhibits while the audio guide told heartbreaking tales of prisoners who had died there. The descriptions of their torture were so vivid that it was hard to take in at times. As I was leaving, a tour group near the entrance was listening to Chum Mey, a survivor, recount his experience of being imprisoned.

The next day, I visited Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, located about 17km from the city. The most infamous of the multiple sites which make up the Killing Fields, this served as a mass grave site and final resting place for victims of the Khmer Rouge, many of whom were transported here from S21. Walking around the serene, leafy grounds, you would never have guessed the terrible things that had happened here 40 years ago. The Killing Tree where guards killed babies by bashing their heads against its trunk was one of the most chilling things I saw, along with bits of bone and teeth embedded in the earth. A stupa in the middle houses over 5,000 skulls arranged according to the type of trauma their owners suffered. It made for a grotesque yet mesmerising sight up close.

Siem Reap could not be more different from the sombre capital – the main tourist drag Pub Street was crawling with visitors and exuded a vibrant party atmosphere. Like everyone else, I came to see the legendary Angkor Wat and it was indeed magnificent. However, watching the sun rise over the temple complex was decidedly not as magical as the reviews made it out to be. It was a gloomy morning and the clouds were grey while the temple was shrouded in shadow. On hindsight, joining the half-day tour organised by my hostel wasn’t a good idea as we were allocated a mere 45 minutes for each of the five temples we visited. It didn’t help that I got lost while trying to find the tour bus as I had exited through a different exit at one of the temples. This resulted in everyone waiting for nearly 30 minutes and cut short the visiting time at the other temples.

Cambodia is still struggling to rebuild itself and it shows in the infrastructure – poorly paved roads riddled with pot holes that make walking extremely difficult and hence require the use of tuk tuks to get around, run-down houses (that are sometimes situated next to imposing government buildings) and mounds of dirt by the roadsides. It was very dusty and hot and I wondered more than a few times why I didn’t go somewhere cooler instead. While the food was decent, it was not very memorable, lacking the variety of Vietnamese food and the bold flavours of Thai cuisine. I enjoyed the $1 fruit shakes from the night market though; they were fresh and delicious and the perfect antidote to the humid nights. I also took advantage of the many fish massage parlours around my hostel and got a fish massage for the first time.

With only a few days, I was too tired and time-starved to venture beyond the city. I’m aware that I’ve only seen a small part of Cambodia and I hope that when I return, I’ll be able to see a different side, away from the cheap souvenirs and war-torn narrative.







2017

This year, I will do my best to:

Eat healthier.
Exercise (groan).
Write more.
Put together my portfolio.
Save more money.
Travel to new places.
Try new dishes.
Explore parts of Singapore I’ve been meaning to check out.

Mostly, all I want is for this year to be better than the last.

Happy New Year and here’s to a fresh start in 2017.

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Carry On

The past three months have simultaneously been a whirlwind of days rushing past and a slow-burning series of weeks unwinding at a placid pace. Life after DT is both normal and surreal. The day stretches out before me, a yawning expanse of time I have to figure out how to fill. Instead of churning out articles, I now browse job ads all day in between catching up on news, watching YouTube videos or clicking on whatever catches my eye. The job hunt is slow, agonising and frustrating. Ads blend into one another and become a sea of words my eyes glaze over. With every email that goes unanswered, my heart sinks further and shrivels up a bit more. This is the worst thing about job hunting. It’s been weighing heavily on my mind and I think about it until I feel like I’m going crazy. I know I need to stay optimistic, like one of those cheesy positivity quotes urging you to push on. I know my situation won’t last forever but it feels that way some days. As I enter the fourth month of my search, I’m trying to let go of my worry because it’s pointless and I should just enjoy this free time while I can. I’ve been catching up on reading and films, and started going on walks around my neighbourhood at night. The other day I said to Y, “I need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I am so grateful to have Y to confide in during this period of uncertainty. It really helps to have someone I can talk to. So I’m going to carry on and see what the next few months have in store for me. Hopefully, the winds of change have good news.

A Year On

1 March passed a few days ago and its arrival brought a flood of memories from the past. I wonder if you remembered it was on this day last year that we met. You probably don’t but that’s okay. I wrote something to mark the occasion, because you were special and meant something to me, and you still do.

It’s been a year
12 months
365 days
Thousands and millions of hours, minutes, and seconds
Coming full circle
For the next cycle
It’s been a year
Charting emotions through seasons
A game of push and pull
Played with kid gloves
Yes, no, maybe, let’s wait and see
Try or try not, do or do not
Fall, fail, retreat to defeat
Lick your wounds and repair your broken parts
It’s been a year
Shift to see a new view
Look to find someone new
But it’s a jungle out there
Wild, savage, and full of thorny undergrowth
And how could anyone love me
When I don’t even love myself
It’s been a year
Older but not much wiser
Another scar joining the ones before
The song remains the same but different
You’re back where you started
Alone and on the floor

Change

I quit my job last month. After nearly two-and-a-half years, I finally took the plunge and handed in my resignation letter. Aside from a strange calmness I felt a slight thrill, and most of all an immense sense of relief. That was when I knew I made the right decision in leaving. I don’t miss competing with my colleagues for news to write, scouring the ends of the web for trends to report, trying to make stories go viral, obsessing over likes, clicks and views, and getting stressed when I fail to hit my targets. Doing that five days a week was exhausting and I was jaded and downtrodden when I left. But with all the bad news about the weak economy, a part of me can’t help thinking I should have stuck it out for a few more months. It’s been three weeks since I resigned and I’m still browsing job ads and sending out résumés. I have nothing concrete lined up yet. I can feel that familiar dread in the pit of my stomach starting up and I’m doing my best not to let it overcome me.

Now that I have all this free time, I’ve been working on my personal writing and pursuing interests I didn’t have time for, like photography and catching up on movies. I finally got around to baking chocolate chip cookies in a mug and they were decent. Not the most delicious ones I’ve had, but edible and easy enough to make that I can whip them up whenever I crave something sweet. My new article for Bandwagon was published yesterday, on Valentine’s Day. It might be the month of love, but for many people it’s a reminder that they have no one by their side. I wrote this for the perennially single, unlucky in love and broken-hearted, but I might as well have written it for myself…

Reflections

It’s taken me awhile to find the time to write this but I’m finally penning down my thoughts properly. Plus, seeing as it’s the end of the year I feel some reflection is in order. The past few months have been a whirlwind of confusion, hurt, anger and self pity, a self destructive cycle that left me emotionally and physically exhausted to the point of collapse. This was punctured by periods of numbness akin to being sedated. I felt like I was losing my mind at times, and I very nearly did. I’ve carried a tight knot in my heart for a long time and it’s only recently that it has started to loosen, bit by bit. The pain cut deep; an ache so sharp and intense it felt as though a red-hot iron was being pressed against my flesh. Even now, my thoughts will occasionally wander and come to rest on a certain memory before I realise what is happening and force myself out of it. That things end for a reason and people leave, and there is nothing I can do, is only starting to sink in. No amount of analysing or beating myself up will solve anything. The only thing left is to accept it and move on. It’s nothing I don’t already know—I’ve read advice like this a thousand times—but despair has a way of making everything seem hopeless and insurmountable.

My wish for the New Year is to find the strength to let go of the pain and start anew. It might seem like a clichéd thing to say but they’ve never been as urgent or important as now. I know I need to break free from these thoughts that are holding me back. As tired as I am, I need to pick myself up and try again. Someday, the events of the past few months will be a distant memory, like a blurry photograph.

May 2016 herald better things.

Hanoi, 17 – 24 December 2015

This time last year I was in Ho Chi Minh, and last week I finally got around to exploring the capital of Vietnam. It was a whirlwind 7 days of seeing the Old Quarter, trekking in Sapa and cruising the waters of Ha Long Bay.

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Lingering

I logged in today and discovered a draft that I wrote in October. While reading it, I was reminded of how low I felt back then it seemed as though the light had gone out in the world. Below is the post.

Three months have passed and not much has changed. My heart is still heavy and my spirits low. I don’t dwell on what happened as much as I did at the beginning, but from time to time memories of you invade my conscious and unconscious mind. When I think of you it’s with a pang, a dull ache in a corner of my heart that seems resigned to such occurrences. It’s a sensation I don’t quite know how to handle, something I haven’t felt before. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve found myself replaying happier times in my head and wishing we could go back to how we were. Such thoughts are useless, I know. You’ve moved on with your life. I imagine you’re busy with a new job, jamming sessions on the weekends, meeting friends for a meal or drinks. I wish I too could look ahead to the future instead of regressing into the past. Caught between wishing things could go back to how they were in the past and knowing the futility of such thoughts.

I’ve been struggling to erase you from my mind every single day. I wrote poems and songs and even dabbled in music making to distract myself. I threw myself into work, churning out article after article and staying longer at the office, trying to convince myself it would advance my career. I did everything I could think of to mend the hole in my heart. I started writing a story but I haven’t made much headway after a promising few paragraphs. I joined a few meet up groups in an effort to meet new people. Last weekend, I bought ingredients for chocolate chip cookies which I have yet to bake. Confiding in a few close friends helped but didn’t lessen the pain. It’s up to me to deal with it, I’m the only one who can help myself. I’m doing everything I can think of to move on. I thought that if I filled my time with all these activities, I’d think less and less of you until I stopped thinking about you completely. It hasn’t worked like that. The feeling of emptiness persists like a sad ghost who refuses to return to its grave.

I fear us breaking up has broken me. My heart has sunk and I don’t have the strength to smile some days. I’ve been thinking a lot about my life. I’ve always thought about it a lot, but I’ve been thinking with more frequency and urgency in the past few months. I look back at my teenage years and I don’t feel much different than when I was 18. I still have the same anxieties and fears. Still trying to find my place in a world that is harsh and unforgiving. I have never felt so alone as I do now. I have hardly anyone to talk to. My Friday nights are spent at home. I worry that I’m not doing more with my life. That I should be out there meeting people, networking, letting my hair down and having fun. There are times when it all feels too much. I feel so tired all the time. Tired of everything, tired of trying again and again and failing every time.

 

Ghost

Rewind and press play
In the projector of my mind
There are two sides to every story
Y.O.U.R.S and M.I.N.E
The passing of time brings clarity
Memories come into sharp focus
The brief history of us
Held up to the magnifying glass of scrutiny

Moments flash in a whirl of sights and sounds
What was once the sweet nectar of bliss
Now leaves a bitter aftertaste
Like fruit left to rot
A putrid mess of flesh and foul odour

Unrealness permeates every interaction
Words and actions analysed and dissected
For the millionth time
Seeking clues in the showreel of self-torture
Like a false math equation with no answer
Senseless
A futile Sisyphean task

White flag at the sorry end
Of weariness and giving up without a fight
Deflated like a burst balloon
A well of emotions rising in the corners of my eyes
Tightened chest, heart a dead weight
Holding out for a second chance
A flickering candle of hope
Faint and weak
Ultimately fated to be extinguished

Resignation takes over
With grief and sorrow on its heels
Though wounds may heal
And months of past recede into history
Giving up the ghost of you
Is the hardest thing to do

Gone

Like a sledgehammer
Without warning
A sudden punch to the gut
Cruel knife through the heart
Words that cut deep
With no mercy or compassion
Where happiness once lived
Is now grey and dead
The swirl of confusion, hurt and anger
Replaced by numbness and despair
Like a dream within a dream
Was it real?
Were those memories an illusion?
Did we exist?
You are gone
And I am left
Alone