it's past midnight now and i am sitting on the balcony with the lights off/my laptop close to me and it is when i am here - somehow - that i feel closest to myself, most like myself, whatever that really means - like it is so good to have my thoughts just be mine, pulled out slowly, watching them become whole, instead of the way it is with ben, when any thought begins by being said aloud, and that's probably what is going to happen when i go back to london, being happy together and finishing a thought by saying it to each other, and even though i maybe wouldn't want it any other way it's nice to be alone for a while, like earlier tonight when i decided to go for a walk and my phone was dead and so all of myself was watching the street ahead of me stretch into the darkness and i felt alone, but that there wasn't anyone else i wanted to share being alone with besides myself

i'm proper sleepy for the first time in a week, yesterday night and the night before yesterday sleep felt far away and i got out of bed to turn the lights back on/off several times, walked downstairs and stared at the fridge and realised i wasn't hungry, just bored, walked into my sister's empty room to look at her books. i keep telling myself i'm going to read something, and i guess i have been - right now i'm reading the rings of saturn by w g sebald - but reading feels difficult too, like a commitment not only to stare at pages but to consider emotions and nostalgia and lately idk i don't really want to feel/stare at my feelings, because it makes me feel like i should document/write (?) more, which is what i am doing now. sometimes i toy with the idea of moving to a cheap city after graduating and locking myself in a cheap but large and bright room and writing all day, and that 'doing something with my life' could mean putting together enough of things that could be a collection of poems, and sewing tiny books myself and giving them to whoever wants to, and i guess that is a dream but it frightens me to spell dreams out because who am i if i have all these dreams that i am doing anything about? why am i prioritising other things over these things that i want and seem important to me? i mean, i know though, it just makes me sad sometimes - i don't think these dreams are dead yet

when eve came over yesterday we talked about jobs (always feel like placing jobs between quotation marks like "jobs" to indicate that i am using it in the same context/same way someone else who believes it is important/necessary to discuss it is, i think) she talked abt someone wanting to be a curator, and i said i never thought abt doing that even though it seems like something i would like and now it is too late (?) it's never too late but doing that seems like something you have to want to do for years and be really into, and i don't care/know enough abt art to actively pursue that, i think. yesterday night right before i fell asleep (for some reason this guided sleep meditation video seems to help a lot) i scrolled through a list of companies that could/would sponsor a tier 2 general work visa and felt happy about finding some companies that i would feel ok about working for - but then - it's so much effort - this is what i am working hard for now i guess - eve said people don't usually talk about wanting to stay because what if they fail and have to come back - but i said it seems important to me to be upfront about wanting things and also wanting them knowing that you might not actually get them - because whatever! it's your own life anyway - but yeah i think i can do it

re sleeping not very well lately, it's mostly because i have a really bad back that i like talking abt because it gets so personal so fast n people don't want to know n im like haha! let me tell u abt my pain! jk - in first year when i was doing cheerleading (which i still love...) i was being a flyer on a stunt and a girl was supporting me by holding my left arm  - while i was being thrown up to [idk the names of the stunt positions anymore] she yanked it while i was being thrown up and it popped out, because i have dumb loose joints and so i sustained a really bad shoulder injury from that, and it happened again with my right arm in june one day - and over the summer the aches got really bad, especially when i was sitting at my desk - felt like i spent a lot of my lunch money on weird gels for sports injuries and heat plasters - the real solution is tiger balm and very expensive physiotherapy - but anyway the pain keeps me up a lot of nights, and i have to do painkillers very often - not really a complaint right now because the physiotherapy has actually helped - but over the summer some nights i would wake up with my joints on fire and it scares me that if it doesn't get better/if i don't take painkillers it might be bad enough to be debilitating. i had to google how to spell that word bc it always looks like there should be a h somewhere there

anyway this morning i woke up late (again) - this annoys me bc i woke up before 7am every day to get to work for weeks and now i am killing time not even doing good sleep - and picked my grandmother up in a cab and brought her to eat japanese food but i forget that my grandmother eats 1/3 of a normal person's share and ordered enough for two people and then had to eat most of her food. feels weird to eat such nice food all the time, because obviously after a while you stop appreciating it as much / compared to the way you would if you eat really simple meals all the time - but i guess i'm looking forward to that in london, having meals not be the focus of my day, i'm laughing now because i feel obsessed with eating when i'm back in singapore, and i mostly do a [wake up - eat - get sleepy - nap - eat - nap - eat - try to fall asleep] cycle. tomorrow night i am cooking for my parents & grandma, doing a thyme-crusted beef tenderloin + mashed garlic sweet potatoes + honey + soy sauce rocket salad, because i missed my mom's birthday and i'm going to miss my dad and grandma's birthday. today while watching my grandma eat her fav food (unagi) i felt like, ok, if i didn't manage to find a job in london - although today rowan volunteered to marry me hehe - i would be really content being a filial daughter... devoting my life to make someone else happy makes me happy (?) i feel like i'm becoming more like my mom in that respect - i told her this and she's like is that good or bad and i said it's neither mom not everything has to be good or bad

most of the day passes now without me remembering the specific thing that feels like a knife cut - most of the time it feels ok when i think 'this happened to me' ok i wrote about this in a poem called "ladies first" - teaching yourself not to think abt something and skating along the edge of the image instead - but it's a choice u have to make everyday... happiness that is... growing older -> learning that after enough things have happened, to be happy you have to choose to be happy, and that it doesn't always.. come to you, like a delight or surprise the way it did when i first met him.... and it's a different kind of happy but you have to learn not to question it

some new things at http://gemstonereadings.net/garden/natalie/ :)

i've been listening to the new blonde redhead a lot/on the flight home (full album - the opening song with the flute is so beautiful) and also all day and it hasn't gotten old yet - going to see them with ben in two weeks - it feels texturally a lot closer to early yeah yeah yeahs, and also makes me feel like 2009 when i couldn't see past or through anything, not in an emotional way, just never imagining being older than i was then, which was eighteen, and now that i am twenty-two i think about myself at age thirty or fifty and older. today i said something about growing older and my dad said you're still young! i'm in my fifties! and i looked at him and felt amazed that my dad has been alive for so long, and never once thought about giving up on being alive, and that i have so much to learn from him.... feel like i value/respect experience/other people's length of experience a lot more than i used to

bb if ur reading this it's now 1am in singapore i love you and i'm coming home soon
rough summer

earlier today i walked out to get a cab to my grandmother's house, after i woke up late and after my parents sent me a text saying that i should have made an effort to wake up in time for lunch with them, and i felt bad because i should have and wanted to, and should have tried to get back to sleep after waking up around 4am with my head hurting, instead of looking at things on my phone and on my computer. i feel the same things each time i come back to singapore - as though nothing has changed - and i guess what i realised that implies, when i say that ("feels like i've never left at all") is that any thing that has changed, the things that have happened over in london that are part of the way i feel older/different - feel nullified when i return, or as though those things did not occur at all - and the external stimuli/reminders point to the last person i was before i left, instead of whatever it is i feel like i am now

since being home i've hung out with athena twice, once when we went to get coffee while outside it poured, and another time when adele shan and athena came over for dinner and i cooked slow-roasted lemon and garlic chicken + tuna pasta + potatoes, and after dinner athena and i walked to her grandmother's house to get eggs to make a souffle, and it felt really nice to hang with people i've known for years, and for it to all come together easily even though i hadn't seen shan or adele in a year really, to know that i still have people to come home to here; and with qi & nathalia on saturday afternoon when we looked at magazines together, then ate shaker fries, and earlier that week qi and i had gotten ba chor mee which i thought about the whole plane ride home; i'm just happy and grateful re that

spent most of this summer getting better at not thinking about things and not trying to record/remember things in any kind of form but today i felt like doing it, which is why i am typing this right now; i was sitting on my grandmother's bed and she took out a photo album of pictures of my sister and i when we were younger, photos of her husband and of her parents, and i leaned on my grandmother's shoulder and cried for a long time because my grandmother and my grandfather (who died before i was born) looked so beautiful and happy, and i fell asleep listening to her tell me how he died, that she was walking him to the bathroom and he had a heart failure, and that she shouted for my dad and her brother to come, and my aunt was in her first year of university then, which was right around my age, and that my grandma has spent the last twenty years without my grandfather, and that my father hasn't had a dad around for years ;(

and then i begin to feel afraid that i will no longer get to spend time with my grandmother, that i'll lose all the hours i had with her if i don't write about them, like when i ate one of the chicken pies she baked today i remembered having them during recess in primary school, and the flaky pastry crumbling in my mouth makes me feel safe and as though she's near.. and i cried again when i remembered losing the necklace she gave me in france.. i just want more time with her - i don't want to feel like things are nearing its end - but mama gave me a folder with all her/my favourite recipes and i'm going to bring it back to london with me, and keep it safe in my room - wish i could consolidate everything i own and have them in one place - although it's weird that like, for most of the year i go without all these things because they are in singapore and when i come back i can't bear to get rid of any of them - don't want to look through old letters or journals bc they feel overwhelming

mama kept saying that the kind of joys she feels now are flatter than the kind of happiness she felt when she was younger, even twenty years ago, and when i listen to her talk about the things she did that week and remember that she hardly goes out at all because she gets tired so quickly i remember that this will happen to me too, especially when i look at pictures of my mom and dad when they first had me, maybe ten years older than my age right now, how young and sparkly they looked, that if i live for another sixty years i'm going to be my grandmother's age - fuck knows what things will be like then, but i think i'm afraid of that to some extent, not life slowing down as it will, but being less able to find joy in small things around me because less and less things will ever seem new - feeling resigned to life - missing everything and people i used to know - my mom and dad maybe no longer being around

keep feeling wretched about time keeps passing and things keep happening to us as though that can actually hurt you, like i try to avoid nostalgia or listening to songs that remind me of a certain time and as much as possible i want to stay in the present and avoid retrieving memories. but it happens anyway, when you look through things that contain what once was before you - i feel slowed down by it, as though a single memory is experienced as a wave crashing towards you, but stretched into whole years - and i hate it - during my internship and at my desk i taught myself how to distance myself from feeling but now that it's over and this is the first time all summer really that i don't have anything to do and ben isn't around it feels as though i have to close my eyes or watch an episode of party down instead of addressing/staring down things i feel

the one thing i feel really happy about this summer was my internship, i sat at a desk for eleven weeks and waking up everyday before 7am wasn't torturous; i was staying at my sister's apartment and so crossed the bridges on the way to work in the mornings and once more on the way home. it felt good to know that i was doing this for myself (?) - like waking up without anyone telling you to, making sure to be early, being able to stay alert and focused and completing tasks on time. establishing and getting used to a routine was way easier than i expected, and i feel good about that too - not being as afraid of graduating next year and what that will be like, when i will have to work all the time. one thing that my aunts keep asking me is whether working at a bank has changed what i want to do or if i still don't really know, and i feel like having enjoyed this internship doesn't mean i now know that i want to work in finance, it means that the company i worked for and the specific people i worked with were great and maybe even ideal, but are conditions specific to this time/place and that aren't necessarily industry-wide characteristic, and i guess the answer isn't that i don't know what i want to do, but that the options available right now or the ones i am aware of still don't quite fit what i am looking for, and i don't know if what i am looking for exists/exists yet

the other day i had dinner with a friend who is going into his final year in england as well and he said that knowing that he's definitely going to come back to singapore after he graduates will make it easier to prepare to leave, like he's going back with that knowledge and will have all of now till next june to get ready to go - and i know that if i want to stay, which i do, i'll have to fight hard to find a way to get a working visa - and i don't know if i've done a comprehensive cost-benefit evaluation - for example given that there are only certain kinds of companies/certain kinds of jobs that could be a sponsor for a tier two visa - would i really be willing to do a job i wouldn't have thought about doing or really wanted to just so i could stay in london - what exactly are my priorities - even if i get to stay in london is it worth it if half my pay will go towards rent, especially if i could stay with my parents back in singapore - what kind of life do i want who are my friends if my friends are not from london and will come and go where are the people i want to be around really going to be - idk these are things that drift through my head more often than it used to

anyway this summer has been really rough for one main reason - but now that that thing has happened several months ago - it doesn't make it hurt any less - time is a form of distance i guess and even though sometimes i still cry - i totally cry all the time - i feel able to close my eyes and move away from it, and sometimes even move through images of pain without feeling like i'm going to die. the nights where i wake up sweating from nightmares are the worst and the worst nights are when it feels like i don't know who to talk to about things anymore partly because i don't want to talk about it anyway - i dream about punching a face in the reflection of a train and wake up with nothing to say - besides the fact that it hurts - also haven't written about it (my feelings) and am having a feeling dump here

when ben first got to london - he's here for a year now - i used to feel sick/anxious that we were still running out of time or that i had to get ready to be apart again - i don't feel that anymore but i feel something like that when i think about my flight back to london - not just abt being confined in a tiny space for thirteen hours - but like, ~ the sense of time passing ~ and not knowing when i will come back to singapore again, thinking about the quote (no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man) and sickening guilt (?) for not spending more time with my parents or grandmother, and then by extension/feelings seeping, feeling bad about being alive or something

on my way to france - that morning we woke up early, had packed our suitcases the night before, had time to have breakfast, clean up the kitchen, leave for the airport early - i remember thinking that despite 'all' that had happened this summer i was finally happy, ready to go on a holiday and not feel exhausted from traveling, going somewhere else with my best friend - and then when we got to the apartment, put our things down, then walked out to the supermarket to get some snacks, i realised i lost my wallet and i panicked. i hadn't lost anything for a while and i guess i always feel really overwhelmed when i lose something - and feeling that in a place that's not where you usually are, my first instinct is to regroup i think, like stay in one place and not move for a long time. but then letting that ruin a holiday would also make things worse, so instead ben and i walked down to the pier late at night to sit by the waters, and on our way home got chinese takeaway. and i remember thinking that with anyone else i would have just said bye i think i want to go back to london i can't do the rest of the holiday while stressed about losing my wallet and the diamond cross necklace my grandmother gave me that i left in the coin pouch - but he makes things ok. lately things with ben have been so good - when he first came it took some adjusting i think - getting through painful things together - but when i moved into my new flat and when he moved into his it felt like hanging out together no longer was the default option and a choice we were making instead - sometimes i would look at him and think 'wow i spent everyday with this person, just the two of us, and i never once felt bored or as though something was amazing' and when i remember this i feel really blessed and amazed again at the way we found each other

there's a boy i stopped talking to recently - i deleted his number but from time to time i remember hanging out with him and my friends - and even if i don't think what this guy and i would come anywhere close to what it's like with ben and i - there was something small and quiet about not knowing someone very well at all - like when we climbed the ladder up to his roof and didn't say anything for a long time and i felt all of myself belong to only me because i didn't want to share me with anyone else i knew

one of the hardest things right now is still feeling loved - this never used to be a problem and now is - although not a terrible one because when i say 'i don't feel like you love me' he says 'but i do' and holds me for a long time. i feel like a dumb girl! like it would have never mattered at all that i looked the way i do (average ~) and i have to stop myself from comparing my face/body with someone else now / shadowy figure in the background of every new poem / trying to find the evidence that what he feels towards me is love - i wish that i felt that immediately and that i didn't need proof for it - feel like you never come back quite the same person - the week before eve's parents got here eve met up with ben and it was really nice to hear her talk about getting to know him as a person independent of me

feel like with the past few paragraphs i am only scratching the surface of things i have been thinking about lately - always so much i want to say, like how much i miss rowan and max and how i'm grateful for the adventure time chat group we have and other things that happened this summer, like stacey leaving for new zealand, the night we had pizza at my place and everyone came round to watch aladdin, the weekend that i went up to norwich for a pool party, ciroc boys party, going to crispin's parents place for a bbq, the weekend my internship ended and max and rowan and matt coming over and kicking everyone else out to fall asleep, how i'm living with singaporeans this year - with caroline - how that came together so unexpectedly but also altogether perfect - days i woke up feeling content and how my new room feels free of the earlier months of pain - the friday morning i told my boss i couldn't go to work because i was ill then spent the whole day crying and drinking orange juice - how i still dream about slamming her against the windshield of a car until her teeth break and until she tells me she wishes she was dead - trying to move through anger and unforgiveness instead of walking away because i don't want to become an unforgiving person - anyway

eve is coming over tomorrow morning and i'm really excited to see her & spend a whole day with her, i feel like when eve and i talk things through it feels like everything that has happened begins to consolidate, come together in a way that it doesn't with ben, as though sifting through my/her thoughts together makes them more real, and therefore i feel more able to let go of them

i don't feel ready to go - not ready for this to be the last year of university and the last few months before i no longer have time (the way it was during my internship).. to write/indulge.. playing hard & i don't want the next time i look back on things to be a year from now aka both ways is the only way i want it :( but i have things to do - dumb things like packing my bag for london and making sure i have space for pineapple tarts and cans of braised peanuts for caroline and a silk blanket + looking for furniture for my new room - other things like working hard at sch & working hard on being a better person and being good at loving and being loved & i should go!
guest post from ben:

it's been a weird and uncomfortable summer
and the america part is almost over and i'm pretty happy about that

I've spent most of the last two months stationary in the dark;
when I first got back from china i joked that i was coming home to convalesce
but that's more or less what actually happened,
being alone and not using energy and trying to heal/ detox

not really sure if it's working
keep letting myself assume I don't have the stamina for 'long form' media
so I haven't been watching movies or reading except for a few things

but whenever I'm not on the phone with nat or working on visa requirements
i've been buried in hours of low buy-in tv series, comics, news, blogs
and feeling like I'm hearing the same small handful of ideas
about pain, vulnerability, anger, and excess over and over again

and I'm glad i decided to commit to study in for at least another year
so I can get sharper/ publish some actual research?
a little more before letting the money-grind start

keep catching myself trying to check whether
I'm the same person I was two years ago,
feel like until i moved away I was getting older at an even pace
but still telling myself the rough sketches were good enough
 and could stand on their own, using the pen as more of a chisel,
not bothering to clean up or finish things

maybe left over from spending too much time
listening to design people idolize process a
nd too many stupid blog posts about wabi-sabi

and it's been weird to like someone enough
to want to genuinely finish the drawing,
to have an idea of how life would look if it were finally inked in

feel like metaphors about needing something from/ completing each other
are inaccurate and creepy for a lot of reasons

it doesn't feel like taking anything,
just like being back in your own room in your own house
after years of couches and claustrophobia and polluted air;
feels right for obvious reasons

finished settling things with tickets tonight
and I'm coming home for real in two weeks
and I'll feel like a real person again, stay tuned
today while cycling to school in the early afternoon
then stopping for the red light at the junction
i thought, 'this is what it was like, now i remember'
surprised by the familiar something closing around
my throat & the fear that it won't go away any time soon
just have to hold out for a little while longer
close my eyes and trust that the light will turn green