January 18, 2016

Which End Of The Pool Are You In?

At various stages of my life I've been asked many of the following questions:

"Have you thought about what you want to do in future?"
"What are you going to study/specialize in?"
"Where do you see yourself in the future?"

I've thought a lot about this lately and I think one reason why we're so ready to inquire about someone else's future is because we hope that their answer would in turn give us some clue about what to do with our own lives.

It's a scary thing to know what the future holds and I think this goes for most people not just myself. To be so sure and certain of what you'll be doing some months or years down the road is perhaps a luxury many don't really have the ability to fathom.

Yet it seems that this is an increasingly important criteria to pass off as someone confident of their career and potential today. I don't deny that this certainty is an advantage on the job front, but it begs the question: How sure are we that things won't change?

For that reason I think 'I don't know' has become a comforting reprieve from this deluge of questions. It's true because well, things can and will change. So instead of being a hundred percent sure, I choose to wade in the shallow waters of unease. It's safer that way.

December 30, 2015

The Year That Was

I've had quite the whirlwind of a year and just hours left till the end of it I wanted to share a smattering of thoughts I've accumulated over the past couple of months.

The most important thing I've learned all year is that time is the only thing we really have. It is a precious currency that should be well spent on everything from the people we hang out with to the things we do. I can't stress enough how crucial it is to use this resource wisely because you never know how much of it you have left. In my role as a student and son I know I have a certain set of responsibilities to fulfil but in the larger scheme of things I believe that I've become better at managing my time and better yet, making the best of it.

Another enlightening lesson for me has been the importance of being alone. On the night of the last day of the semester I packed my bags for Bangkok on a short weekend getaway which proved to be the best, seemingly brash decision I've ever made all year. In truth I was more afraid of not being able to have enough time to prepare for the imminent finals than the fact that I was venturing into a foreign country alone. How naive I was until I learned the aforementioned lesson on time. I'm comfortable doing a couple of things alone like shopping for clothes, eating out and even going to the movies. But travelling alone remains the top on my list and I've become better at enjoying my own company.

This past month I've been grappling with the notion of goals and purpose. The big question of my life's purpose and meaning seemed to weigh on my mind heavily during the free time during the holidays. Most days were spent re-evaluating life choices and cooking up improbable scenarios which did little to help. It was not before long I realised for myself that it's really fine to not have all the answers. It's great if you decide to take a break and not do anything. No one is keeping a tally of how effectively you are maximising every waking moment to "realize your potential". That shit's on you and you are only accountable to yourself. As for the need to rush through everything? It's high time for me to slow down and put in the hours towards good work. Rome wasn't built in a day.

What better way to start 2016 than leaving 2015 having loved, lost and learned?

December 29, 2015

Out Of The Ashes

Yet there is beauty to be found in rubble signifying a rebirth upon new foundations.

December 12, 2015

When I'm Afraid I Think In Pictures

I'm afraid of many things. Missing deadlines. Getting caught with my fly undone. Tripping on my way down an escalator. And other Final Destination stuff like that. But chief among them is the fear of death, dying early, the works.

I was right in the middle of a class when I got the call that a friend of mine had passed. I remember everything that unfolded in vivid detail. My phone had a couple missed calls and an urgent text. I brought myself out during the break to call back and that's when the news dropped. I stood near the window just staring blankly. I still remember my first thoughts being that this was all a cruel joke. The person on the other end asked if I was okay before hanging up and I replied I was as convincing as possible. The truth is I was already numb beyond words by then.

The rest of the semester was a blur of emotions and deadlines. It was truthfully a trying time because a part of me needed a little space and time away from everything to process all that had happened. But there was a timetable that wasn't going to give way. Not until much later. So I soldiered on for myself. I thought, 'This would be what he'd want for us to do. Move on.'. I tried.

I had initial ideas to occupy myself during the holidays with a small project like I did this Summer. But all that changed once I received the news. I desperately wanted to make something that would allow me to deal with all these emotions I felt. Writing them down still didn't feel like enough.

The idea to do a short film never escaped me. While I was fearful of my ineptitude the first time round, I was more preoccupied with making something that would make sense not for anyone but me. In some way, this was my form of therapy.

After many initial drafts and scrapped ideas, I came up with something I felt was worth making. Yet I still had my reservations on top of artistic anxieties. But with the help of two very loving friends, 'Goodbye' was eventually brought to life. This short deals with all the fears of losing a friend and someday I hope I can look back at this chapter of my life and see that it was a right decision for me to pursue this project to the very end.

November 24, 2015

River Wild

It was about a month ago when I was tipped off about a hotel stay giveaway along the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. I gave it a try and didn't think much of it, until I was given the call that I had won. It didn't take me long to get my flight booked and itinerary planned because the trip was certainly a highlight of what has been a tough semester.

I spent a little over 3 days travelling by boat from pier to pier along Chao Phraya soaking in all the sights and sounds at 2x the speed of a normal tourist. Armed with camera in hand, I sought to give a go at street photography and the Land of Smiles did not disappoint.

I was met with mostly curious looks which made for very compelling subjects in some of my photos. But the Thais were generally happy to oblige for a photo when I asked nicely. I only knew how to say a couple of Thai words thanks to the help of a school mate. The rest was all a game of charades whenever I needed something I didn't have the words to describe.

Travelling solo took a while getting used to but once I got onto the boat on the first day there was no turning back. I enjoyed the freedom to roam around in a place where no one knew who you were. It was liberating as all I had was a list of places I wanted to see and that was it. Bearing in mind that I was also armed with Google Maps and a data plan to help me navigate. In the end it was the stuff that was not planned on my itinerary that was most fulfilling. 

Along the way I met with a fellow backpacker from France. Paul and I met on a chance encounter while taking shelter from the rain in a Burger King. He was interested in my camera and soon we started talking about our travels and exchanged details about our lives. It was such a magical moment in the middle of such a bustling city, to be able to make friends with someone from halfway across the world.

Let's not forget about the food I had there. Everything from the street fare to the dishes in shophouses was pure heaven. You've never tasted real green curry until you've been to Bangkok. All the dishes I've ever had are lies - the Thais truly do it best. And you could easily find milk tea vendors at every corner of the street you turn without fail. This was something I was really impressed by.

I spent one early morning visiting a few major temples which really wasn't my thing because the swarms of tourists ruined the experience. While I wasn't on some 'Eat, Pray, Love' adventure, I have to say I was awestruck by the architecture all around. It helped that I arrived early and beat the crowds to the ticketing counter. I was able to walk around the Grand Palace right while it was still empty and admired the level of detail in all the structures inside.

Being able to travel and see the world on my own is in itself a great privilege I am so grateful for. Prior to this experience, I had read countless articles telling me how important it is to travel and I've had endless debates with myself about how that could never be possible because of time and money. But looking back I realised how I was only making excuses for myself. The world is out there  waiting to be explored and it doesn't really care if you choose to or not. 

I made the decision to go on this trip and it came at the time right after the end of my semester and before a paper. I could easily have tabled the entire plan citing having to study as a main concern but I'm glad I didn't. If anything this whole experience has taught me to enjoy my own company, to step out of my comfort zone and to keep an open mind. I really do hope I get more opportunities like this in the near future because there's just so much more I would like to explore.