my space

The news came as a shocker.

‘It’s important for everyone to focus. And after a series of discussions, we’ve decided that the current team will focus on broadcast. This means that all future video productions will now be under your department’s care…’

The carpet’s design was intricate, I realized. I never once, in my past years noticed the patterns, worn thin from many shuffling feet.

‘We understand that your team has only one editor and a very tiny camera crew. The transition will therefore be a slow one but we’ll still need establish a target date for this handover to be completed. We’re looking at June…’

Last night, as I was revising my year’s targets, I’d oddly included ‘building a video crew’ as one of them. I had no idea then what the future held, nor the changes that were going to take place, but establishing a team of creatives was high on my priority list. I carefully ran through the list of people I’d worked with in the past three years… and smiled. We still needed a miracle.

‘I hope you are all happy with the decision. It took us a long time to make it but we believe that with focus, comes great power.’

I finally looked up at Jap Girl – my partner in the past four months of intensive video productions and nearly choked. She was making wild, crazy faces at me. ‘Oh my god!’ her expression yelled out at me. ‘I didn’t know! Did you?’

I didn’t. The news was fresh. And yet… somehow, I wasn’t surprised.

It was all part of a dream that He had given me a long time ago.

*

Rest.

A space to think, days to mull over decisions, and moments of imagination not bound by time – they all help create the powerful. Many of the great moves in history were preceded by a lull in action; inherited, forced or self-imposed.

A space to get away from every demand placed on you – be the right person, perform the role, answer the questions, provide the solutions, wear the hats – to be the person you truly are, in all your flaws.

Staring at the mountain in front of me, its peaks swathed in little fluffy clouds, I have decided to take a break.

It’s not laziness, and I’m not entertaining talk that I deserve it because I’ve been busy. It’s for no other reason than the fact that I need to build the person inside me… You know that feeling of being in love for the first time? When your insides felt so overwhelmingly large you wanted to burst? Ready to run on the rooftops, shout from the highest hills, kiss every stranger… that is the largeness I want on the inside again.

Because only then, can I be ready to live out the largeness of my very own future.

*

I walked back to my office and looked at my table. Files and files of paper, schedules, music charts, magazine tear-outs, books, photos, storyboards, scripts, ribbons, two laptops, three hard-drives, a candle holder, coffee cups and a half-eaten sandwich… I sighed. It was time to get organized.

But first, on a whim, I decided to check other famous people’s desks… I need inspiration! I reasoned… and what do you know? I wasn’t alone (well, not entirely) in my messiness.

This was Roald Dahl’s writing chair. I remember reading about his creative process, where he stated that he never liked to move from his position once the creative flow hit. Because of that, he would carefully plan to have everything he needed within arm’s length. It appears though, that he was an odd collector too. ‘The table near to his right hand had all kinds of strange memorabilia on it, one of which was part of his own hip bone that had been removed; another was a ball of silver paper that he’d collected from bars of chocolate since he was a young man and it had gradually increased in size.‘ (The Guardian)

Too neat! Too cutesy! Too quaint! Oh wait. It is Woody Allen’s desk. And it is just like him – part adult, part child. And mostly very unreal to me.

Straight out of an editorial layout. This is Yves St Laurent’s creative work space. Posh, elegant and well, stylish. Love the inspiration board… although I know I’d never be disciplined enough to make it look that well put-together.

My personal favourite though, is…

Albert Einstein.

It comforts me to know that both the neat, logical side (see left shelves) and creative, chaotic space can co-exist in the same brilliant mind.

Not that I’m brilliant.

But I am inspired about my spaces. And how I need to care for them, nurture them, guard them… because in them, I grow.

On to greater things then.

Oh yes, and a neater desk.

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live.breathe.learn.

‘I did it! I learnt how to rip my dvds and change their formats… and damn, it feels good.’ I leaned back on my chair with great satisfaction.

‘Is it easy to do?’ Jap Girl looked up from her work.

‘Yep, all I needed was to download Handbrake and follow the steps… now all I have to do next is figure out how I’m going to transfer all my cassette tapes into mp3 tracks… and I’ll be king!’ I laughed.

‘I noticed that about you… you like learning things,’ she said.

‘Do I? I mean, is it that obvious?’ I asked.

‘Oh yeah, you seem to get a thrill out of reading manuals, forums and seeking out solutions for little problems.’

She was right of course, I really do get excited when I find out how to do something new. It’s almost exhilarating.

‘But doesn’t everyone like learning? I mean, when you figure out some technical shit, or manage to solve issues with a little research, don’t you feel good?’

‘Not really, no.’ Jap Girl smiled, ‘I’d rather get someone to figure out the stuff for me, and then do it for me. Or at most, teach me. I think you like to set yourself little mountains to conquer… you are competitive that way.’

‘What? Me? Competitive?!’ I looked at her with feigned horror. ‘I am so NOT competitive!’

‘Oooh yes, you are!’ Jap Girl laughed loudly. ‘That you cannot deny.’

But I shall. I really never figured myself out to be someone with a competitive edge. But learning? Yes, that gets to me. I am so hungry for more, to learn more… and every single night, I want to go to bed satisfied having known, tasted or experienced something new. I think it just keeps me young.

After all… weren’t we all sponges when we were little? The world was fresher, its colours crisper, the sounds more resonant. It was as though life was all new, every single morning. And that is how I want to greet each day, with that sense of awe at how little I know… and how small and finite I am in it.

*

‘I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.’

– Henry David Thoreau

I’ve finally begun the tedious process of transferring all my Japanese language tapes (from the 80s, mind you) into Garageband, and thereafter, into my iPod.

Because my dear friends… I am finally doing what I wanted to do in 2010. I am going to learn to speak in my mother tongue. Imagine the world that will open up to me, the stories I’ll hear… and of course, the wonderful secret language that Jap Girl and I will finally have.

It’s divinely schoolgirl-ish.

Of course, not a single bit on the language tapes makes much sense to me right now, but I have this idea that if I play the tapes while I sleep, osmosis will take place and I’ll wake up with a new language, ready for use, on the tip of my tongue.

Okay fine. I can dream, can’t I?

*whee*

Many thanks to DigiBoy who lent me his cable. He’s always been awesome that way, being the techinical-god who had the patience to answer my technically naive questions. Then again, he was the one who asked me if there was only space for one person on the top of mountains…

‘Because mountains have peaks, right? And peaks end at a point… so does that mean only one person can stand there at a time? And if so, does the entire group have to take turns to summit?’

DigiBoy… you are such a spot of sunshine in a sometimes grey world.

*

‘Why are your eyes so red and puffy?’ I asked the Designer.

‘Oh… I slept late last night,’ he sheepishly grinned.

‘What were you doing?’

‘I got this new software and was teaching myself to draw feathers in 3-D, you know, stroke by stroke, that sort of thing. And then to animate the feathers to move as they would when the wind blows.’ He answered, turning his computer screen to face me. ‘Look!’

‘Why are you doing this?’ I asked. He was already swamped with work and I was curious about his latest project.

‘Oh… no real reason. I just wanted to figure out how to use the software,’ he shrugged. ‘You know… just in case.’

I smiled. So maybe I wasn’t the only one.

*

‘I have finally figured out how we can catalogue our entire props collection!’ Scooter Girl hollered. ‘I am so excited! It’s the same system I implemented in my new home. I think it can work… now I just need to go to the hardware store to get the drawers I need.’

‘Erm… you enjoy cataloging the stuff?’ I smirked.

‘Yes, of course! I can’t stand the mess. And I always want a system that I can manage in place…’ she continued, staring at her excel spreadsheet. ‘What I need to know now, is how to monitor the borrowing process… hmm…’

I retreated quietly to my corner of the office and began to chuckle.

‘You know what?’ I tapped Jap Girl on her shoulder. ‘I think you do like to learn…’

‘What do you mean?’ she asked.

‘You just don’t like to read manuals and stuff… but you are so curious about the world and what you see. You learn from observing life. Your learning isn’t quantified by knowledge alone. You do it every time you ask the questions that people only think, but never say. You however, just voice them out. And because of that, you learn. Just in a different way…’

‘Maybe…’ she smiled.

*

‘Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.’

– Albert Einstein

What about you?

Are you a knowledge-starved person too?

what did I learn?

‘What did you learn over the weekend?’ I asked JapGirl.

‘I learnt not to assume that others see themselves the same way I see them. I also got me a lovely new book!’ she said, holding out a plain hardcover ring-bound set of brown papers. I oohed and aahed appropriately before bending downwards to sniff them.We both like papers. They make us high.

‘I like…’ I smiled.

‘What did you learn?’ she asked in return.

‘I realized that it’s great fun overtaking people when I run,’ I gleefully replied. ‘I also found out that it’s hard to drink water while running, how I need to start reading books again and that I truly love eating oatmeal.’

We do this every week with each other and it’s lovely to think back on a weekend gone by and recapture our ‘wow’ moments of revelation. Personally, I ask myself that same question too, every night I sit down to write.

What did I learn today?

*

I entered the derelict mall and wrinkled my nose in slight disgust. It reeked of old boiled soup, unwashed clothes and corners that hadn’t seen the light of day in years. Glancing at the scrawled unit number in my hand, I took the escalators and rode up to the second floor. I was on a hunt for new shoes.

My knees had been hurting the past two weeks after every run and I took it as a sign that I needed a new pair.

’02-35, this should be it,’ I murmured to myself as I stepped into a tiny cramped shop filled to the ceiling with shoes and running gear, and marveled at how one could ever keep track of anything in that space. There was barely any space to walk. Still, this place came highly recommended by The Sister’s podiatrist so there had to be some value in the chaos.

‘May I help you?’ A plumpish man dressed in shirt and pants asked me.

‘Yes, I’m looking to get fitted with a new pair of running shoes,’ I replied, ‘My current pair is a little worn out.’

‘Did you bring your old pair?’ He asked.

‘No… but they are Nike Zooms,’ I said.

‘Nikes, pfft. Those are only for looks. You know, they used to make really good running shoes but these days, they changed their marketing strategy and spend more time on superficial design. Come here and take off your shoes,’ he told me, ‘Now turn around and walk to the wall over there. Let me look at your gait.’

Obediently, I did as told and walked up and down the shop several times.

‘You have an arch but it tends to flatten when you place it on the ground. Basically, you over-pronate. You’ve also got very wide feet and your left foot’s big toe has already started to angle inwards,’ he said. Then grabbing a ladder, he climbed into a hole in the ceiling and disappeared for a while. When he returned, he handed me a pair of Asics.

‘Here, these should do well for you.’

I tried them on and honestly couldn’t tell the difference except that they felt more solid.

‘These will do you well for long-distance running,’ he explained. ‘Do your knees hurt when you run in your old pair?’

‘How did you know?’ I asked. At that moment, I felt as though he was god. Sure, it’s basic science and if I bothered to do a little more research, I’m sure I’d have found out the same things on my own but it felt good to get some advice.

‘Good thing you came. Otherwise, the next thing you’d face is very tired calves and back ache,’ he continued. Sheesh, I did suffer from tired calves after running. Sometimes, they felt so sore and tight I wondered if I was doing something wrong.

‘Come back after 8 months and bring your old pair with you. I’ll check how they wear out and see if you need something different,’ he said as I paid for the new shoes.

‘Does a person’s gait change, the more they run?’ I asked.

‘Yes, it can change. But I’ll be able to assess more accurately once I see how your shoes wear out. You say you land mid-foot and not on your heels?’ he asked. I nodded. ‘That’s actually a good thing. Makes for a speedy runner. Well, all the best and see you next year!’

Tonight, as I ran, my pace improved and I did an average of 1km in 6.9 minutes, an improvement from Sunday’s 7.5 minutes. And guess what? My knees didn’t hurt.

I like my new shoes.

*

‘Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.’

– Albert Einstein

What did I learn today?

I learnt that I tend to over-pronate when I run and that while the shoes didn’t necessarily improve my timing directly, it helped me believe I could go further, stronger… And sometimes, that’s all we need to do greater things – we need something to believe in.

My new shoes aren’t magic but they gave me confidence that I had a solution to my old problems and my new goal of finishing the next 10k run in under an hour is therefore, somehow… possible.

Belief. It’s strength for the mind.

And the mind? It propels the body and person to do things once thought unachievable. It’s that simple.

What do I believe then?

I believe… I can fly.

*

What have you learnt today?

the girl with lines

‘You look great!’ someone hollered at me as I entered the office today.

‘Hey… you look different. It’s nice,’ someone else said.

‘Ah! I didn’t recognize you!’ another yelped, before laughing.

Five similar comments later, I decided to walk to the ladies to check myself out in the mirror. I looked hard. I didn’t see anything different. What was going on?! I turned away and walked out, only to bump into more friends.

‘I like how you look today, you should wear more dresses,’ one of them said.

‘Yeah! You look really pretty today…’

‘But… I always dress like this,’ I answered. All this attention was weird, but nice. I didn’t quite understand what was going on though.

‘Hey, do you notice anything different in me today?’ I asked the Mother as we traveled home together. I couldn’t help it. The narcissistic side of me was curious.

‘You look good,’ she said.

‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Is it what I’m wearing? Is it my hair?’

‘No, I don’t think so,’ she answered. ‘I think… it’s because you’re contented. You’ve been paying more attention to yourself and it shows.’

‘I always take special care to dress well,’ I wasn’t satisfied with her answer.

‘It’s not what you’re wearing,’ she thought for a while, ‘It’s what’s going on inside you. You are feeling beautiful inside because you’ve been doing more things for your personal satisfaction. In the past few weeks, you finally did things that matter to you, that you were dreaming of doing, for ages.’

Wow. You mean it shows?

*

‘Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.’

– Markus Zusak

In keeping with my resolution to get new running clothes, I headed to Nike and purchased a top, a pair of shorts and some socks. Not particularly glamorous but it made me happy to know that I was starting to get committed to new things.

‘I’m sorry I can’t give you a discount because you aren’t a member,’ the salesperson said. ‘But your purchases have entitled you for free registration to a women-only 10km run held at the end of July.’

‘I just checked that run out, they said that registration closed almost two months ago,’ I answered.

‘Yeah, but we have reserved slots. You want it?’ she smiled.

‘I do!’ I was ecstatic. Earlier on today, I’d been browsing the running calendar and was slightly disappointed that I’d missed the July race. 10km is something achievable and a good motivation for me to work harder in the coming weeks. To find out that I could still enter that run just sealed my day with a kiss.

This will be my first official run and I’ll be going alone. Which is fine with me.

It’s funny because this has been a great year of firsts for me… and all the firsts that I’ve been doing, I went at it alone. Don’t pity me. I like it this way. Honestly. It’s not because I feel sorry for myself and think that no one will be there for me. It’s not because I fear mockery… okay, that is a lie.

Perhaps, I want to do these things on my own as I don’t want to face their why-in-the-world-would-you-do-something-like-that look. There is insecurity. Maybe I’m not good enough? Am I making a mistake? But that is a fear I want to conquer.

I appreciate the friends who turned up in support of certain things I did, friends who cheered me on from the sidelines of life. They made my moments more meaningful because I didn’t ask them to be there. They just turned up and surprised me with their care.

But doing things on my own affirms my belief that the outrageous choices I’ve made this year, were decisions influenced by no one else’s opinion but mine. I need that.

I am purposefully jumping off cliffs – edges of fear that once held me ransom to man’s opinions.

I like entering each new adventure where no one knows me, where for once, I am a stranger. It’s a place where no one has placed expectations on me and if I fail or make a mistake… I do it on my own.

It’s a strange, beautiful high.

‘The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.’

– Albert Einstein

The girl with lines is slowly filling out her spaces with beautiful experiences.
The girl with sharp edges smiles as she conquers her dark, hollow spaces.
The girl who stood alone now walks, firm-footed in unknown lands.
The girl with lines gives the Dream Maker her future plans…

Make it good, dear Lord, make it good.

nothing

‘There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.’

– Albert Einstein

I started the day the usual way: Get into the office, set up the laptop, wash my tumbler and make a fresh cup of tea, sit down to read the Word, start up laptop and check emails, do work.

I did everything but the last item. And felt robbed that the list of ten tasks to accomplish wasn’t deliciously ticked off, one by one. What did I do today?

‘I feel so… discouraged,’ I said to Cutesy. ‘On a given day, if you asked me to write something, I’d churn it out with ease. But recently, I find that I can’t write. I am just so…’

‘Scattered?’ Cutesy laughed. ‘It could be that you love to do so many things you’re stretched out all over the place. You need to focus and perhaps, let go of some of the things you love to do.’

I kept quiet after that. I knew what she was hinting at and I’m not ready to let go and walk away from my other responsibilities. I’ve always felt that while focus is important, we need to keep something in our lives that is incongruent with what we do daily.

A construction worker who reads. A cab driver who knits. A financial analyst who plays in a band. A manager who dances. A lawyer who paints. It all makes sense to me. The dissimilar areas of our lives inspire each other. Passion has never made sense anyway. Or at least, that’s my firm belief.

Well, it’s 11.07pm and the little ones are finally asleep. I have my coffee, my music and a beautiful long night ahead to prove that statement right.

‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’

– Ernest Hemingway

I am ready to bleed.

*

From childhood, the one thing ingrained in me was to count my blessings. Before I get thoroughly introspective and this pity party gets full-blown, I’m going to count the nothing that I did.

1. It rained the entire day. Gorgeous. I breathed in the air and felt alive.
2. I discovered a new brown-rice tea in the pantry. Yes, it’s expired and no one has touched it. It’s therefore… all mine.
3. I contacted the guys who can do laser lights for the upcoming event – all three of them. Wonderful.
4. I printed out the transcripts. That counts, right? Yes? Okay, that’s a loser count.
5. I wore a completely new outfit combination. Never mind that I was in the exact shade of my morning cab. Gah.
6. I replied two personal emails.
7. I painted my nails black. Last night… I don’t care. This still counts!
8. I managed to squeeze in an episode of CSI. A marvel really, when you consider the free time I have.
9. The new train line has finally open and the Mother and I took the train home, instead of our usual cab. A feat, I say!
10. Two mobile phones follow me wherever I go. I changed the ringer-tone for the corporate one and set up the data system for the other to download stuff from the internet.
11. I taught JapGirl how to coil her wires.
12. I changed my mind about buying the iPhone. Decided to wait for the newer one. And proceeded to change my mind a further two more times.

‘If the real world were a book, it would never find a publisher. Overlong, detailed to the point of distraction – and ultimately, without a major resolution.’

– Jasper Fforde (Something Rotten)

Yes, I am d.i.s.t.r.a.c.t.e.d. and terribly unfocused.

But I am going to get down to work now so wish me the best!

Ooooh wait… I just received an interesting message from a friend…

[walks off into the night with phone in hand]