2013: The Year in Review

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston

A few weeks ago, I came across this quote on a blog I follow. I was kind of blown away by how strongly it resonated with how I’ve felt this year. It’s such a short quote, yet it expresses a myriad of emotions and experiences in such an eloquent way.

This year has definitely been a year that has asked questions. I’ve had mini existential crises over the year, as I questioned and rethought what I really want to achieve in the medium to long term. And even now, many things still have a question mark (or two) attached. But I’ve come to the realisation that it’s perfectly okay to not have everything worked out. What does matter, to me at least, is that we give everything our best shot, embrace the opportunities we are given, and pursue other opportunities with equal enthusiasm. In fact, I think that years that ask questions are valuable opportunities for personal growth and self-development.

So here’s to 2014! Happy New Year! 🙂 

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December

December is a special month. It’s the last month of the year, a time where we reflect upon events past, a time where we are often filled with childlike optimism (and perhaps a little naivety) about the future. There is no one telling us to be more realistic. We’re allowed to dream. We’re allowed to build our castles in the air. We speak to our friends, family, loved ones, and even strangers, with a kind of wistfulness. We express our disbelief over how quickly the year passed by. And we muse over the things we had hoped to but failed to achieve, the times we said ‘no’ instead of ‘YES’, the times we let opportunities slip from our fingers and the little (or not so little) regrets of the year.

And of course, December is also a festive season for many. However, as my family never really celebrated Christmas, I’ve never felt super excited about Christmas.

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One of my earliest Christmas memories is actually from my pre-school years. The pre-school had organised a little Christmas party in December, and had hired a Santa (or I should say, a man in a Santa costume) to give us our Christmas presents. I remember all of us sitting cross-legged on the ground, looking up at Santa in his vibrant red clothing, white hair and long white beard, with a sense of anticipation and excitement. Santa then called out our names, one by one, to give us our presents. I was ecstatic when I ripped open the wrapping paper to find that it was what I wanted. To be honest, despite this memory being a vivid one, I have little recollection of the present itself. I do remember that it was a toy of some sort, something with lots of small pieces – I’m pretty sure it was a ‘playing grown-up’ kind of toy. I was puzzled: I didn’t quite understand how Santa could have known what I wanted for Christmas. When I asked my parents, I was told the truth – they had bought the presents, wrapped it up, and given it to the pre-school teachers – so Santa could in turn, give it to me. I couldn’t quite comprehend any of this at the time. It was too complicated for my four-year-old brain to wrap around. I guess part of me believed that Santa and his telepathic powers were real.

My other childhood Christmas memories are not so vivid. Primary school was very festive around December – we would sing carols in the school choir, decorate the classroom with stars and tinsel, make paper mache wreaths, learn about the Nativity and share Christmas cards and gifts.

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Now when I think of Christmas, I think of a season of giving and sharing, and love and joy. But I can’t help but think of the ways consumerism has become intertwined with these elements of the holiday season – it’s become almost a vehicle for expressing these feelings and emotions. And how popular culture and the media continues to perpetuate ‘ideal’ Christmas traditions. There are ads everywhere of smiling and incredibly photogenic families, couples and friends, gathered around a designer-decorated Christmas trees and surrounded by beautifully wrapped presents. Long dining tables laden with all sorts of festive meats, fruits and desserts. Ads telling us that material objects are the only way we can show our love and gratitude to those we care about. And their message to you, the slightly vulnerable and sentimental consumer, conflicted over what to buy for a loved one: it’s not really just the thought that counts. Your kind thoughts are really lovely, but they really ought to be expressed in a brand new electronic gadget, some nice jewellery or a flashy watch. It’s really quite amazing (and at the same time, terrifying) how companies/ad agencies can really tap into our psyche…

I’m not really that cynical about Christmas and consumerism though. At the end of the day, we need to put our cynicism aside, and simply enjoy Christmas. Or the holiday season, if you don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s a joyous time, a special time of the year where we can embrace old traditions, or create new traditions. You can be celebrating by putting up and decorating the Christmas tree with fairy lights. Playing Secret Santa. Holding a ‘traditional’ Christmas lunch. Listening to Christmas albums from your favourite artists. (I must admit that Michael Buble, Josh Groban and Il Divo’s Christmas albums have been on my playlist this month…) You can be re-watching a few romcoms set in Christmas. (Love Actually, Bridget Jones Diary and The Holiday are some of my guilty favourites…) Create your own traditions! It’s a time to wind down, catch up with family and friends, indulge in some food and drink and enjoy the small things in life.

Season’s greetings everyone! 🙂 

Writer’s block

(Source: Tumblr)

I’ve been wanting to write a proper post for a few weeks now, but it’s been so difficult. I had many ideas about what I could write during the semester, but now that I actually have time to sit down and write, I feel as if I’ve been handed an impossible task. Sometimes, I actually feel that the above quote from John Green’s incredibly popular (though in my opinion, overhyped) book The Fault in Our Stars does a pretty job of explaining how I’ve felt about writing lately. There are many ideas and thoughts I would like to convey in writing, whether they be on life, society, politics, economics, or popular culture, but my attempts to articulate these ideas and thoughts have been somewhat futile.

Sometimes it is strange to think that one of the only clear career/life ambitions I’ve ever had was to be a writer. If you had asked me in primary school, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I would have answered, “A writer”. And unlike many other children, I never went through the ‘typical’ list of childhood career ambitions. I never expressed any interest in being a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a nurse, or a policewoman. I was pretty set on being a writer as a young child. I remember my many, many attempts to write stories in my spare time. But I also remember that I wasn’t a particularly good writer. My writing was littered with cliches, and my fanciful story lines didn’t exactly help either. Most of these stories were abandoned after I had written the setting. As was this early-life ambition of mine.

This was partly due to my belief that writing was not a skill that could be acquired and fine-honed, but rather, an innate talent. And even though my view on this has altered over the years, I think I still have a rather romanticised view of the entire writing process. Even to this day, part of me dreams of writing as an almost effortless task, a task where once I place my (metaphorical) pen to paper, words (emerging to form beautiful sentences) will flow on and on without the slightest hint of ebbing. But deep down, I know that this is not the case for even the most talented of writers.  

So what’s next? I don’t want to give up on writing – whether it be a draft to be published, or simply two sentences I want to jot down somewhere. I shouldn’t just give up because it’s hard. And here I shall finish with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”