Don’t postpone living

We think that we need a change of scenery, for some reason. 

I didn’t grow up with the idea of “going on holidays”. Being away to travel was a luxury. It’s a luxury to take time off, to go somewhere else and look at some touristy stuff, to not be working. 

My mother didn’t get the chance to do any of that.

For her, “the good life awaits in the future”. That was her life motto. But she never thought she had to leave before that future.

Just right before that future.

She wasn’t suffering in her working day-to-day. But she postponed joy. Actively avoided it. She had to rationalise the things she enjoyed, as if she used it more today there won’t be enough for her tomorrow, or next year, or ten years later. 

Now I’m here. On my second holiday away with my husband and baby daughter, I keep thinking about my mom. How she thought her life could finally start when she retired and when I start to make a living by myself. 

She didn’t get to see much of the world. She thought she didn’t have the choice, or the control.

She never went traveling alone. She was afraid of being alone. But in the end, she had to leave alone. Like we all will.

But the best ones always leave early.

Thanks to my parents, I started traveling by myself early in life. And I don’t plan to stop, even though now I will take care of a baby full-time. 

I will travel the world with her. And tell her that life has hope for the future, but is happening right now.

A Bad Hobbyist

I like to do a lot of things. But I’m not good at almost any of them.

This is how it usually goes: I try something, with the borrowed or the cheapest equipment (salsa dancing in sandals, playing other people’s ukulele, drawing with colourful pencils for children, playing badminton with other people’s brackets…) Because I don’t want to invest in something I’m just trying out. And then, I will have so much fun that I want to “be serious” about doing it. So gears are bought (light-weight, cat-heels dancing shoes, a brand-new ukulele, a professional set of drawing pencils, my own pair of badminton brackets with a badminton ball…) “I’m going to do this as often as I can! Better once a week!”

And I never do it again. Mostly because something else comes up and I just forget about it. Then I might do it again half year or a year later. Something you do twice a year is not your hobby.

My husband said that his hobby is to play computer games about once to twice a month. When I said “it’s not a good hobby” he said “you don’t even have a hobby.”

I guess I really don’t have one.

Hobby is what you do for fun. It seems that no matter whatever fun I have doing stuff stops right after I consider doing it more often.

Commitment issue? I don’t know.

But most things are like skiing. You try it once. The first time is usually fun, but the real fun comes after you get somewhat good at it.

I can consider myself to be a bad hobbyist. Or maybe my hobby is just to discover new, fun things, and then move on to something else.

Maybe I should stop wanting to have a hobby because clearly too many things are interesting to me and I’m bad at keeping one.

Maybe trying different things is my hobby. The “feeling like a bad hobbyist” part not included. Because that’s not fun.

Dig deeper and/or let it go

Feeling stuck because of overthinking? You might think you have two options. Dig deeper or let it go. But there might be another way.

What I find important for me is that I’m not able to let go of things I’m overthinking about easily. The best strategy is in fact to let it go for a while and wait for whether it comes back. If it does, it means it’s really important; if it doesn’t, well, it’s been let go.

And when it comes back, with the time distance, it doesn’t come back exactly as how it was. The new aspect of it might just be the crack of the shell that I was looking for to solve the problem. Or it might be the crack through which I can see a new world.

How to make it work?

I don’t have the answer. That’s why there’s a question mark in the title.

But I know how it won’t work.

It won’t work if the idea remains a thought, a dream, or even turning into a nightmare. (Because… you know, unfulfilled things might hunt you.)

It won’t work if you take one step forward and stops when it gets a little bit harder.

It won’t work if you get a bit sweetness out of a short period of hard work and then call it a day — and you are doing it not because you are satisfied, but because you are afraid of failing.

It won’t work if you think it’s too much to ask for life to give you what you really want. “I have this so it’s not fair to ask for that.” Who are you taking it from?

It won’t work if you don’t have a structure — any structure — when you have more than one thought in your head, more than one thing you need to do a day.

It won’t work if you put (imagined) others in the spotlight of your life.

It won’t work if you are a closed person.

It won’t work if you are too careless.

It won’t work if you can too much.

It won’t work if you take yourself and life too seriously.

It won’t work if you don’t have a brake.

It won’t work if you pulling the brake the whole time.

So how can you make it work?

I’m really asking.

Role-playing life

The adult life sometimes feels like a role-playing game. A small part of you is wondering when your mom is going to call out “dinner’s ready!” so you can just stop playing and go home. At the dinner table, while listening half-heartedly to your parents talking about their work, you think about how you could have played better today, and how you plan to play tomorrow, or another day.

A double life of a wanna-be artist

You are working on your dream project. You are finally writing that poetry collection, that novella, learning how to play guitar, how to do oil painting, you are taking singing lessons…

… in secret.

Oh you are more than ok to share what you are doing with strangers, though. Actually, you are desperate for more attention from “an audience” — the bigger the audience, the better! As long as none of them know you from work, school, or… reality.

It’s like you are living two different lives. It’d be ideal if they don’t have any overlap with the other. Until… in your secret life, you’ve made it. Then you will be ok with the people in your “real life” finding out about your success.

But not before that.

You probably don’t want to admit it. But you are hiding. This is something new in the age of Internet. You can hide what you are doing from the world around you, by just not telling your family and friends.

You feel like a superhero, living the double life. “Peter Parker didn’t want his aunt and MJ find out that he was Spiderman for a reason.”

A good reason.

“What would they think of me? They will judge me because I’m putting myself out there and making myself look bad and they will laugh at me or think I’m a poser and loser…”

Yeah, right. Hello, ego.

The truth is, they will not be thinking or talking about you, much.

And you think you are reaching for the stars and actually wanting to become something, while in reality you are the boring person who’s doing nothing but staying within the lines.

The time you are busy trying to hide your talent and effort and artistic endeavours from the others is wasted. Because they don’t have time to care about you, for they are probably busy with hiding what they really want from you.

So you can tell your ego to stop making your life harder than it already is. You might feel like a superhero living a double life, but you are not really Spiderman. By telling the people you know and coming out of hiding, not so much is at stake but your own ego.

Your precious idea

The idea in your head. The precious one. “It’s big. World-changing. It means something.”

“At least it’s going to be life-changing for me.”

Yes, that’s the one.

But it’s so precious so you have to be cautious. Put it in a beautiful box and lock it in your drawer.

Don’t disturb it. Don’t expose it to the air, or the sunlight, otherwise it’s going to deteriorate.

But, wait. Is it the idea that we are protecting? Or our ego?

Since I was a kid, I loved writing. My essays were often praised by teachers. But I never sent anything to the local newspaper or any children’s magazine to get it published.

Because I was afraid of rejections. Because I was so used to be praised, be “the best” in a place where I was already the best. Because I knew in my heart, that there’s a chance I wouldn’t be “the best” to get picked.

And it’s the same today.

The internet saved my artistic life. I can write here, in a blog with almost no traffic, at a small corner of the sea of words and characters. I feel safe here. Safe to write, to express. But after a while, I’m tired of singing to the vast of emptiness, and nothing comes back.

I have to choose, between showing real people “I have something to say that’s worth hearing & I can write”, and protecting my ego from ridicule, rejection, and indifference.

And silently blogging might just be another way of protecting the precious idea, protecting my ego.

So where do I turn up the microphone?

Her timed work is timeless

I came across Alexa Meade’s work recently. Her works have the surprising effects and I’m sure I’ve already seen some of them on my social media feed somewhere.

Alexa Meade challenges our perception of art by turning the relation between life and painting to the opposite direction. Art usually means “coming from life”; life informing art. But she managed to show us there’s the possibility to something opposite, something new: art can come to life, literally.

Life imitating art.

Meanwhile, every piece of her work is not just three-dimensional, but four. There’s a time element that’s crucial in her work process. The painting is done on models who are there, on site. They will be there as an existence that is only there for a period of time. And that time is the main part of her artistic work. What remains afterwards – the photos, the memories of the viewer who were there, the making-of videos like this one – is, again, only the description of her work. Her work is timed in that way.

But her work is also timeless. In a society where everything, especially ourselves and experience can be commodified or materialised, Meade’s work challenges our perception of our own existence. Can we live in a painting that’s more beautiful like a dream than our own life?

Meade creates the “canvas” in the three-dimensional space, and puts her objects on that canvas and paints over them to make them fit into that seemingly two-dimensional space.

Alexa Meade’s work reminds me of the work of Johannes Stoetter.

Both artists use painting on human body to create illusions. Both artists wow their viewers by challenge their perception of “what they see = what is” to “what they see = what it can be”. Their works are memorable and timeless.

How we can try to challenge ourselves and our viewers with our work?

What we can we challenge to understand and appreciate?

What can we break to preserve?

Genre vs. Idiosyncrasy

Genre is like an index. You are put there so people can find you. We always need to think about how others can find us. How they can hear us, can see us.

When they do, it’s what only we have that keeps the right people around.

Genre is a labeled box.

Genre is a platform.

Genre is a stage.

Genre is index.

Genre is an opportunity given by the stability of an ecosystem.

But in the core, genre is the part of what you do that shares with a bunch of other people’s work. It’s the general theme that connects different paths.

Idiosyncrasy is the reason for people to stare, linger, and stay.

Idiosyncrasy is the texture, the smell, the waves on the surface of a still lake.

Idiosyncrasy can be a disruption, too, when it’s strong enough. When it’s so disruptive that others might follow your lead, so that they will need to make another genre for you.

But idiosyncrasy is also going to be the reason why you are remembered for being who you are.

I think the way I’m putting it makes everything daunting to me. My first reaction was like “I will never be able to ‘disrupt’ anything”, “oh gosh I don’t want to put that much pressure on myself!”

But the way to do it should be simple, right?

I’m learning to sound like myself. I’m learning to listen to how I sound like when I’m being myself. But the answer always appears where I’m not looking. Not to sound too “Asian mysterious”, but “sounding like yourself” is something that you can only find when you are not actively looking for.

So I’m just reading, and writing.

I’m figuring out what I like, what I don’t like. I’m writing by imitating the things I like, avoiding the things that turn me off, believing one day I will be able to say: “This is me. This is how I sound like. This is what makes me remarkable.”