What it means to write poetry

*Translation below

시를 쓴다는 것은 자신의 머릿속에, 마음속에, 심장 박자 안에서 존제하는 그 느낌을, 혹은 그 이미지를, 그 기분을 자아낼 수 있는 그 하나의 단어를 찾아가는 것이다. 그 허우적거림 속에서는 수십개의 표현이 손가락 끝을 스치고 지나가는데, 그중 자신이 찾는 그 하나의 단어를 위해 끝없이 손을 뻗어나가는 그 동작이 마치 시인의 춤 같다.

Writing poetry is like searching for that one word that exists in that feeling, image or mood inside your head, mind or heart. This frantic movement towards that one expression that eludes you as dozens of words slip by your fingertips – this neverending stretch of arms is like the poet’s dance.


November 2016 – Part II

Friday, November 18th
… Everything is falling apart. The great deconstruction has begun, and I don’t even know why I am doing anything anymore. To forget that, I’ve been medicating myself with The L Word, and now I have to be back in the real world, and I don’t know how to act. Everything feels unreal, and all I can think about is me, me, me. So self-centered…

Sunday, November 20th
… I hate the dark. I can’t believe I forgot how much I hate the dark. … Maybe it’s my winter blues again, but I’m fed up with obsessing about sex & relationship. … I look around & no one in my circle of acquaintances has a functioning relationship. The majority of the people I know lose themselves in the relationship or stay with people who makes them feel insecure & anxious. So far I can see that relationships are not only pain in the ass but also a huge energy-sucking distraction. …

Monday, November 21st
… Along with the will to push forward with my plan despite all the uncertainty is the desire to hide & run away for another degree. The desperation shouting, I’ll stay in Germany! The instinct for immediate security warring against the intuition for risks. Risks I can even consider taking because of my privileges.
I realized that I don’t know humans. I don’t understand them, what is going through their minds, what makes them do certain things.
All these years, I’ve looked at them through the lens of all the narratives I’d gobbled down. But the people in the books are simpler. Less conflicted. They change, or adapt to change, easily. They have two or three big traits that define them – bold, funny, soft-hearted, nice, aloof, insecure, etc. – and none of them has a dusty collection of tiny characteristics that are clumped & dumped together like abandoned toys. They are single-minded in their pursuit, so sure of who they are. They get over traumas easily without having a relapse. They never have socially awkward conversations (unless being awkward is one of their traits) with strangers/acquaintances/friends. Other people trust & like them so easily that I am green with envy. They are rarely lazy. Sometimes there are genuinely nice characters whose niceness doesn’t vanish no matter what is done to them.
They are not humans. They are created by humans as some sort of idols, similar enough to humans but ultimately too good to be real. None of them are messy, disgusting, abhorrent, conflicted about the smallest and the biggest thing.
It’s not easy to be loyal and vulnerable. It’s difficult as fuck to stay true to yourself or even to find yourself. It’s hard to escape the feeling of being an outsider, warranted or not. It’s probably normal to hate the world & everyone in it, because they all sicken you without any reason. We think about, like, and do certain disgusting things. We run away or medicate our pains a lot. We blame other people, we victimize ourselves (although watching Jenny Schecter has shown me how fucking selfish & revolting that be), we become irrational on regular basis.
Goddess, what fucking messes we all are.

Tuesday, November 22nd
The people in my head are translucent paper-people, and I don’t know how to turn them into solid, flesh-and-blood people.
… I tend to be pretty unforgiving towards people – esp. those whom I want to like. Once they are inside my heart, I don’t care as much, but until then…

Thursday, November 24th
My head is a cluttered place; a bleeding wound. I vomit other people’s words out of my ears.
… Being vulnerable – being authentic – is hard. Being self-compassionate is uncomfortable. Engaging with my fears feels like I’m going mad.
… I crave certainty like a drug addict, and yet at the same time, I harbor a disdain for the society’s rules. I want chaos. I already am chaos, but then I lose my head, certain that I will never find my way back to reality.
… I look at the reading log for this year, and 80% of the books I’ve read this year were escapist reads. And I spent a lot of time in front of my laptop, watching movies and TV series. I have been emotionally numbing myself the whole year.
And maybe I haven’t been honest with myself, either. I am happy alone, but at the same time I feel like no one is going to love me. I do want to write, but I am terrified I suck at it. I do like reading, but I am constantly ashamed of my choice of reading materials. I do practise the mindset of enough, but scarcity creeps up on me again and again. I still measure my proud moments against what other people would be impressed by. I am still loathe to disappoint my teachers and professors.
… It’s difficult to see myself as I am, because there are a slew of things I want to become, but can’t do until I accept my current self. Humans are messy and ugly and always, always struggling. I want to create art that captures that struggle. I want to be honest. I want to stop playing a saint and just be my selfish, quirky, lazy, intent, struggling self.

Saturday, November 26th
… [I was at a poetry evening with a friend.] It was held in a studio place with a bit of run-down, starving-artist minimalist look. The people who came – there were many, and we were one of the early ones, so we had an ample time to observe them all – were very diverse in background & looks, but they all knew each other & we didn’t know these people, plus the music was too loud anyway, so we just sat there and looked around a lot. After an hour or so of socializing, some people read aloud their poems, and I liked having this read-and-share movement (also because it gave us a legitimate reason to sit around & not talk), but the poems… and the poets… they didn’t resonate with me at all. It’s definitely a matter of taste, but I couldn’t understand even the vaguest outline of their poems and it sounded like a string of words that conjured up all sorts of weird jumble of images – sexual, guttural, human waste. The theme or the form themselves weren’t disturbing, but what bothered & shook me the most was that I couldn’t feel the writer’s authenticity in their writings (except for one piece). The words felt empty, the whole presentation a cliché, and the art dishonest.
It is true that I am not into this twentysometing’s retro, hip & broke(n), artsy scene. The kind where the past seems to have been appropriated and the past authenticity turned into a grotesque cliché. Scenes where the said twentysomethings smoke pot, talk about having beautiful souls, and sprout Hemingway-esque poems (in the sense that they are vaguely misogynist and so male). … A year ago or less, I would have been intimidated into believing that an artist has to be like that way to be a “true” writer/poet. Maybe I’m being too hasty in my judgment/condemnation, but that’s the impression I had when we left the party. …

Tuesday, November 29th
… Does no one feel like this? Does no adult remember the emptiness? Does no on-the-cusp-of-adult experience this hollow space we call “self”?
… I am very rigid in my ideas of what I want when it comes to work. … Am I being too picky, so drenched in the privilege that I have my sight trained on too high? Or am I so afraid of working that I reject everything, thus deluding myself that I am “looking”, but at the same time still leaving the status quo untouched? …
I act and act and act out whatever I can get my hands on, because if I were to let myself be authentic, I’d probably sprout off some incoherent sentences at random, grin toothily, and scurry away.
… I just hate, hate, hate, HATE dealing with my emotions – there’s a reason why I’ve been numbing them for so long. I am not good at anything; this knowledge hits me like a brick on the back of my head, because my fragile ego had constructed this reassurance precisely to keep myself from this black-out. … And worst of all, I am disinterested in so many things that I can almost hear my neuron pathways dying off. It’s not that I find everything uninspiring or boring; I just don’t have any subject that I would dig into its depth to the center of the earth. …

Wednesday, November 30th
… Winter is the time of the year which I recoil from in the beginning and whose darkness I embrace eventually. Instead of brightening the room as much as possible, I am content with a flickering candlelight limiting my view to only what is right in front of me. Instead of feeling grateful for the technological advancement that allows us comfort (hello – radiators??!), I am annoyed that the city never truly sleeps, that it never lets its occupants recuperate.
I think that always being in search of my identity might be my identity. Perhaps because I had to learn the lesson about the instability of identity earlier than usual, and with more force than usual. Playing the various personas that are probably a part of me, all the while frantically searching for the core of my self, even though I know in the back if my mind that there is no such thing. But the emptiness – or the fragmentation – how to bear if without going mad?
… When we talked about “identity” in my Cultural Studies lecture, I encountered ideas/theories that opposed the Enlightenment notion of a core self. Certainly, how we perceive ourselves change a lot over the years, and I daresay it is influenced by external circumstances… but maybe it is a choice, you know? The characteristics that you choose to let go, and the ones you choose to hold on to. There are of course going to be parts of yourself that you are unaware of.
I feel so conflicted. … I do want to change, because I think change can lead to growth… but a part of me mourns the pieces I will inevitably have to leave behind, pieces that I have to let go in order to embrace new ones. Perhaps a human’s capacity for contradictions is limited. Another part of me, though, is terrified of both letting go and letting in. That part just wants to bury myself in the ground and talk myself into being content where I am right now.

November 2016 – Part I

Wednesday, November 2nd
… It’s strange, but I sense some learning curves (or growth spurts, or whatever-) some of my friends are going through. Things that you don’t realize you are in the middle of even though you are up to your neck in it. Freeing yourself from parental expectations struggling to stay vulnerable; recognizing that there will always be certain space between humans that can’t be bridged; learning to live with uncertainty instead of seeking certainty. …

Thursday, November 3rd
… I go to the trees when my head feels too big and time is slithering through my fingers like water. Gazing up at the ancient lives who have witnessed events from the far past and who will live to see the far future. My head shrinks back and I am enveloped by the life bigger and vaster than I could ever be. Smelling in the damp earth, my inner animal stops growling and settles back, content for now. …

Friday, November 4th
I decided to follow my heart and be a writer, but I haven’t been writing.
I knew the road wasn’t going to be suddenly smooth, and I have to make the decision again and again, every day. It’s hard to find the heart, and a lot harder to keep it, because it’s helluva easy to lose it.
The human interaction between fictional characters (movies, books, etc.) – Erich Fromm was spot-on. They are imitations of the real thing, and we turn to them because it’s easier, more accesible, and less risky. But they also don’t linger. These quick bursts of warmth and humor are fleeting and they leave you feeling emptier than before, thus starting and enabling a vicious cycle. …

Saturday, November 5th
… I feel lost. Lost and scared, even though I know what I want to do. The decision to trust my heart was just the first step, perhaps the highest point for a long time to come. I did say I was descending (or ascending, or maybe it’s just straight ahead) towards madness.

Sunday, November 6th
Connection/Disconnection. Lately, that’s all I’ve been thinking about. That precious moment of shared human-ness, striking that space in us that is full of longing for belonging and of the need for connection. …
But also the disconnection – the dissonance in the melody of relationship, the surface of ego demanding spotlight. It’s time to step back, take care of our inner child, and ready ourselves for another meeting on the level of the spirits. …

Monday, November 7th
I am scared. I am scared shitless about the future. … I am afraid of turning out to be a mediocre writer, although I don’t see what’s wrong with that – perhaps it’s the social pressure of finding the dream job right away, the idea of our jobs representing who we are. … I realized that I don’t have many – any? – concrete, tangible fears. I am afraid of abstract things such as the future/uncertainty, and also of not being understood/accepted/loved by other people, but I can’t think of scary experiences in my life – for me, it’s a perpetual, long-term fear, not a moment of fear bursting into a flame and extinguishing itself just as quickly. I don’t want to play the victim card again (but I probably am), but when you have already experienced being an outsider, when you have already gone through several identity crises, perhaps your fear of spiders or operations cease to have such a huge influence on you.
In my melodramatic moments, I fancy myself an orphan – which is a slap in the faces of all the people who really do not have family, or parents who are so bad that being an orphan would be the better option. What I had refused to see, however, was how many people were trying to be my temporary family in small ways. But I never really let them, priding myself over my emotional independence, telling myself that while they were nice, I didn’t need them. Then, being a hypocrite that I am, I bemoan the fact that I am alone with my actual family far away.
Why do we isolate ourselves? Why do we push people away? Why do we punish ourselves?

Tuesday, November 8th
… I was feeling discouraged, and I did what might not have been such a good idea: I called Mom. My security blanket had been ripped off me, I felt hypersensitive and raw all over – like everyone was staring at me & judging me -, so I wanted to slip back to the role of a child and seek the comfort of my mother’s lap. Only she could not provide it anymore. So I start keeping things from her, and from my family. …

Friday, November 11th
… I don’t know how to love people whom I can’t see, touch or hear. I am constantly seeing only parts of their lives, and call me a perfectionist/purist/extremist, but I can’t love like that. I want the physicality of love or nor love at all.
… Is family a structure in which the members need each other or want each other? Is it both? Or neither? Or does it depend on the individual family?
… Maybe I don’t feel confident enough yet to face my family’s opinions. Maybe, one day, I will be able to comfortably share all of myself without worry or fear or anxiety. Until then, I’ll keep my life to myself.

Saturday, November 12th
Behind being torn about the future lies a fountain of feeling inadequate and the lack of my belief in myself. The fear of not knowing myself. Not trusting myself to be strong enough to survive the world outside of the academic bubble.
… I am afraid to trust my words, as if they are an entity to themselves, as if I could mangle them if I touch them. Maybe that’s because they seem to just pour out of me when I enter this zone of beauty – no, of life – and thus seem sacred. It must sound very pretentious to say that my writing seems sacred, but it’s not the really the words themselves; it’s the experience. …

Monday, November 14th
… I think it’s our human need to be understood & accepted that leads us to tell the people in our lives all sorts of things. We want to unload our most selfish, self-indulgent, and shameful thoughts on them, in hopes that they will absolve us from our burden, so that we can be light-hearted again, just like children after having confessed that it was us who has broken that glass jar.
But humans aren’t gods. We aren’t all-accepting, all-forgiving. We are often impatient and pre-occupied with our own lives. Other people unburdening on us feels intrusive –
I know all this and yet – and yet I find myself wanting to revert to being a kid and dump all of my problems on someone else’s shoes. The first person I think of is my mother, of course, perhaps also b/c I’m reading To the Lighthouse for my class and I am fascinated & daunted by Mrs Ramsay. …

A conversation with my inner voice

It’s hard getting up sometimes.
I know.
Climbing out of the bed and staying out of it requires all my energy and I can’t do anything else all day.
I understand, sweetie.
But it’s a good thing I’m still alive. I like being alive. I think.
That’s a good thing, then, isn’t it? I think it’s a good thing.
Yeah, I guess so. But I look around and feel so useless. How come I can’t do what everyone else can do? Getting up, taking a shower, eating, working, paying bills, shopping for groceries, squeezing in some time for hobbies or meeting people.
It might feel like everyone is doing what you just described without breaking into sweat, but I assure you, there are quite a number of people out there who are struggling as well.
But I used to be – normal. Efficient. People said that I was smart, that I had potential.
And now?

And now… I feel like a failure. Like a total waste of resources. I consume and consume and consume without giving anything back.
What is it that you think you should be giving back? Giving whom?
The community at large. The world, the universe. My family, maybe. I want my family to be proud of me, but when I am being honest, making them proud has nothing to do with me.
So why do you do it?
I try to do it.
So why do you try to do it?
Because I can’t bear to disappoint them, or to have them worry about me, or be sad because of me.
But isn’t that what a family does? Worry about you and care about you?
Is it? Sometimes I feel like – I’m afraid – they will see me just as an additional burden. Like, they have so many things going on in their lives already, they shouldn’t worry about me as well.
The same could be said about you. You have so much on your plate right now, why add the potential worries of your family to it?
…I don’t know.
I think that life isn’t a mathematical formula of give-and-take. It’s not like the market where you have a precise value for every single thing. If you can afford to be generous, you give more. If you are barely keeping your neck above the water, you accept more.
But I used to be – different. Better than now. Like, I could deal with life better.
I understand what you mean – but… is that really true? Or were you just better at faking it? As you got older, the list of your burdens got longer, not shorter. That’s what really sucks at being an adult.
But if I can’t cope with now, how will I ever earn money? How will I achieve true independence?
Does money scare you?
Yes. I’m afraid of the final black-and-white value put on my head. I’m afraid no one will think me worth their money. I feel so inadequate.
So you are not afraid of the work itself?
No – yes – I don’t know? I am afraid I won’t be able to do the work properly. But I understand the importance of working.
So your fear lies in…
…my inaptitude. Basically, I’m afraid I’m good for nothing. That no matter what kind of work I do, I won’t be good at it.
So if you are not good at something, you better not start at all? Is that it?
In a nutshell.
Have you thought about just doing your best, and let that be enough? Even if it was just okay-ish, and not brilliant?
But… no one is going to hire me for being okay-ish.
You won’t know until you try, will you? Tell me, do you really want to become a professor?
I… don’t think I’ll mind it much? Like, if I were ever good enough for such a position?
Why the question marks?
It’s what my father wants. It’s what my grandparents want. The job title sounds grand, and depending on which country you work in, the salary is good enough to guarantee a comfortable life.
Well, that’s great. Is that the kind of life you want?
I want to be a writer.
Ahhhh. Okay. Good.
I want to write, and I want to live simply. I don’t have to live in a big city. I don’t need much stuff, I don’t need the latest technology. When I get too lonely, I will get a dog and love him or her. I will grow herbs and vegetables and ride around on a bike.
That sounds lovely.
But you can’t make a living out of being a writer. Even the simplest life has to be financed somehow, so I will need a second job – something not too demanding, something that will leave me time and energy for writing. Something that will still pay the bills.
That’s practical, too. Unfortunately, most authors can’t survive on their writings alone, that’s the bleak reality of the industry. So what will you do?
That’s the thing – I don’t know! I also don’t know whether I will have enough guts to tell my family that I don’t want to be some bigshot – all prestigious and whatnot. I mean, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a financially successful and socially prestigious business person, right? So there should be nothing wrong with wanting to become a frugal, dreamy writer, either.
You know what – you really want this, go for it. Develope a plan. Leave room for errors and miscalculations. Start saving now. You’ve already started writing. Keep writing, even if you can’t earn a penny with it.
But there are all these Tentacles – I can’t focus.
You know, like in Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story? That’s how Craig describes it. There are so many things to be done and so many interesting things that I want to be able to say I have done – just thinking about it makes my head hurt.
What things? What are your Tentacles?
Like, look at my university degree. Could you get more schizophrenic? I am studying English literature and linguistics, American history and culture and literature, and even Dutch! And I want to take Italian this semester! And there are so many wonderful books I want to read! And I want to spend more time on becoming a more spiritual person! So many people to meet, so many experiences to undergo! Who has time for all that?!
It’s funny that your Tentacles are actually the things that you enjoy… the things you are curious about. How about cleaning or cooking? Going to the driving school? Dealing with bureaucracy?
Well, those things are not really important important. Besides, they don’t require much of my mental energy.
So why are you interested in all those things?
I like knowledge, I guess? And being knowledgable makes me look smarter?
So it’s to show off? To tell the world that you are a great person? That you are a genius?
Isn’t that what everyone wants?
We are not talking about everybody. We are talking about you. Is that what you want? To be admired for your accomplishments?
No, actually… no. I don’t really care about all that because all that does not make me happy.
What does make you happy?
That depends on my moods… sometimes I want to connect with other human beings. Other times I just want to live inside my head.
Can you focus on that? Spend the most of your brainpower on doing that? Instead of scattering your focus in all sorts of directions?
But no one pays me to dream all day long. Plus, I would become a very dull person without the inputs from the outside.
Okay. So how about an attitude change? Sweetheart, I am sorry to inform you that you are just an average human, and your brain’s capacity for absorbing information and dealing with them is limited. What’s worse, all your constant worrying and anxiety are occupying quite a large part of your brain, making you less efficient.
So what should I do?
You don’t want to cut off your Tentacles, don’t cut them off. Instead, let them Tentacle their merry way. Don’t let them squeeze your heart and invade your brain. That means not letting them be relevant to the core of you. What is it that is relevant to your core?
Ah… being happy. Being helpful, when I can. Love. Loving. Writing. Reading.
So all those languages and histories and theories do not make the cut, yes?
I guess not. No. No, they don’t.
Well then, learn about the theories and write papers on linguistics and learn how to say How do you do in seventeen different languages, but don’t let them identify you. Hobbies are supposed to make you happy, not make you feel stressed out. You are supposed to have fun with them! Because they are not a part of your core, making gross mistakes and being bad at them shouldn’t matter.
Huh. So… none of that matters.
None of that matters to you. And that’s okay.

Writing therapy

When I write personal pieces on my blog (which is the majority of my posts!), I don’t write with an audience in my mind. I couldn’t write if I did. It is intensely therapeutic to publish writings that are extremely personal to a potential audience who do not know me (there might be a few exceptions). It is safe precisely because of the anonymity, yet strangers can find something they can relate to in my words, because we are all humans, and similar experiences connect us.

I also keep a journal and write letters. In fact, all my writings are private in nature. For a long time, I thought I couldn’t call myself a writer unless I wrote in an established form of genre, such as fiction or essay. It still sounds pretentious to think I’m a writer, but I am one in the purest sense of the word. I am a person who writes.
I first started a voluntary diary when I was in the sixth grade, and for the next five and a half years, I wrote more or less regularly. I picked it up again after a year and a half, and have kept it up since then.
While journaling has been extremely helpful with keeping my emotions in check and voicing my innermost fears, insecurities, hopes, and dreams, my blog was the place where I would gather my thoughts and try to construct a narrative of sorts. There are especially pieces that go back to my childhood, and today I am so glad that I took the time and often also the pain to deal with the part of my childhood that I’d rather bury and forget.

The past does not forget us, though. It haunts us until we dig it up from the depth of our consciousness, and deal with it in one way or another. Even so, even after a cleansing relief so sharp that it leaves you feeling empty, you will return to the site of digging years later only to find that the pain and the hurt is still partially there.
I have a driving instructor who sometimes reminds me of my father in the worst way possible. For weeks I hadn’t understood my reaction to his reprimands, to that critical tone of his voice. Then it hit me last week as I was doing dishes, just like that. His tone, coupled with his words and expressions sent me spinning back to my childhood and adolescence, and I was again a child or teenager bracing for the verbal blow, anticipating it and yet surprised anew at how deeply it sliced into my heart until I felt like it would stop beating.

I usually don’t advocate poking at old wounds again and again without giving it a chance to heal. Well, I still don’t. But it’s worth examining them just to see whether they are healing as they should, or whether they have become infested again.
My relationship with my father is still very complicated. It has gotten much smoother ever since I opened up a little last year. Since then, it has improved so much that I had forgotten that up until a year ago, I was still being smothered by the past and present hurts.
The incident with my driving instructor brought the past crashing down on my head, but thanks to having worked on the issue on many occasions in the past, I do not have to start from zero. I am not a victim of verbal abuse and parental neglect – not anymore. But it is scary, and quite frankly just plain sad how power the past traumas still can have over me. Maybe because I have never put my past experiences in those terms: traumas. Maybe I am giving my past more power than it deserves. All I can do right now is to validate my feelings of terror and pain, and let them stand for themselves.

I’d like to think that in many ways, writing has saved me. It has helped me to release unhealthy anger, and to bring reason and order to my whirlpool of emotions. However, it can do only so much. After draining the wound, I still have to find ways to treat it and dress it and look after it. But it’s better than letting the wound fester.

gauging the depth

I used to hate any restriction imposed on my writings by schools, be it word limit or a certain format I had to abide to. That’s actually one of the reasons I decided not to study English Literature – initially. As arrogant as it sounds, I wanted to keep the essence of my writing.

Now I see those restrictions more as a challenge than limitation. The word limit keeps me from rambling on and on, and to keep my arguments short and concise. The essay format forces me to structure my arguments and it often reveals opinions that I did not know I had.

The biggest challenge, however, has been to decide how deep I want to go in a given topic. In writing an essay about Emerson’s idea of transcendentalism, I am restricted to about two pages, 1.5-spaced, and there are so many things that I have to leave out because of that. I understand and appreciate the professor wanting to keep the assignment simple (“It’s about coherence and not so much about content, folks”) but it puts me in the awkward position of wanting to display all my thoughts and running the risk of being misunderstood (or simply not understood) because I put too many points in one essay.

Any tips on how you handle this problem? Or is it even a problem for you? Maybe it’s my lack of practice that makes me struggle to find a balance. And now back to the essay!

this is a pipe, not water

I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I’ve been posting one post a day for the past four weeks or so. I intend to do this for seven more days (including today) until Yule. I had vaguely planned it to be my creative contribution to the holiday season… because the original plan had been to publish a poem a day.

I had a pile of poems I’d written in October and the first half of November, so those alone gave me almost two weeks’ worth of posts. Then I wrote some more poems in December, until all my scheduled posts were posted and now I usually write an hour away from the deadline. Some days I have a clear idea about what I want to write. Today is definitely not one of those days. Normally I’d rather not write than write just something. I’m writing right now only because of the promise I made to myself and because I’m a competitive person by nature.

However, I’ve got to say that writing regularly has been something like an endurance training so far. At the beginning of the semester, I dreaded writing a free-style academic text in one week. I postponed it because I didn’t feel “ready”. And maybe I wasn’t. But the time eventually came during which I had to produce a text for class for the first time. It was difficult and awkward, and I wasn’t happy with the result. It went much better the second time around – I was more confident and the words came a bit easier. Today I am at my sixth assignment, and I’m not really worried about the writing part anymore. Yes, it’s going to be a bloody, tenacious battle because writing is always like that for me. But I know I can somehow fit the words together to carry my messages across, even if I have to knead and beat them until they stop falling apart.

Sometimes the words flow from me in a smooth rhythm. Other times, I have to break a pipe, and be content with the rusty metallic materials.

chickpeas and other musings

Chickpeas. Rinse and drain them.

Tomorrow – the first day of the last week of university in 2015. It’s past six in the evening on Sunday, the day before the first day of the last week of university. I am sitting with a mug of hot water, mixed with lemon juice and two teaspoons of honey. The sun has set a long time ago. It’s only a week away from Yule. My kitchen is a mess, and I’m writing a Dutch test on Wednesday, a French test on Thursday, and an essay is due on Friday.

Chop an onion and fry it in olive oil.

I wrote a lot for school in the past couple of weeks. If you count the words, they are only about 5000 or so, but I put my soul into my writings. They weren’t just assignments, they were also my creations. Filling the white pages with one word after another, carefully chosen and discarded.

Add a sliced tomato. After a few minutes, add one minced garlic and half a teaspoon of smoked pepper (ground) as well.

I’m tired, but not the miserable kind. It’s the warm, fuzzy, sleepy kind after a workout.

Stir in spaghettinis broken in 5 cm lengths. Add 150 ml water, the chickpeas, and some white wine if you have any.

I was lonely, so I tried to fit people into my hole of loneliness. It made me miserable, so I stopped.

Salt and pepper. Wait until the noodles are tender.

I am taking some time for myself again. I sleep in, I cook, I go out with friends, I read. And I write. A lot. For myself. I’m planning my own small Yule celebration, and I finally understand why people get excited about Christmas. My parents are probably exhausted, my sister feels trapped and miserable, and I have my winter blues.

Sprinkle chopped basil or any other herb that you’d like.

I don’t want to burn out. I care about what other people think of me and my writings, but I am more than their thoughts. Sometimes, I have to abandon everything and just follow my inner music. Things are fantastic when I follow my inner music. I am not hungry, and I am warm. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but today I am happy.

Chickpeas. They are left over.


*The recipe isn’t mine. I just modified it a bit. It’s from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, edited and assembled by America’s Test Kitchen. It’s a good cookbook if you are willing to be a bit elaborate.


Words swimming

Disjointed, broken, sharp, always too sharp

All the wrong things
I wanted to say
All the right things

I study them
My fingers move to produce them
Air hisses from my throat to pronounce them

I write and write and write
Useless and irrelevant
Moving the pieces across to make them new
I can’t write what I mean

They fail me
I coax them, they won’t come
Wrong, they are all wrong

I swing my ax
Hack them to pieces
Stumps of alphabets
Black-and-white fragments

They are not real
We made them up
A construct in our head, mind, soul
Why do we care so much?
How would we live without them?

Speakers of my heart
Painful song of my soul
A mirror, a lake reflection
Distorted, jagged, blown away

I can’t speak
They fail me

I have a future to look forward to

I am sitting in my armchair, and have been doing so for the last seven hours or so (still not moving my head, of course). And I’m so grateful that I can now have a laptop on my lap and type away, look at university programs and plot my future.

Of course, I first had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t really plan my future. Its uncertainty and surprises prevent me from that. I thought I’d understood it when I ventured on my journey as a law major, thinking I’ll complete my law degree, and then I’ll see what I’ll become.
Now I have abandoned my law degree, and have to define future anew. This kind of freedom – a starting-over, or perhaps a continuation in a different direction – is terrifying. I spent the first three, four weeks after making the decision to stop studying law being afraid that I’ll make a “mistake” with a new path. But making mistakes would presume that there is only one right path for my life (and thus diverging from the path would be a mistake). That’s not true. There is no One Right Path for anyone. We make choices, and our choices alter our futures. Even when we thought our choice was carved in stone, we can change it again. And again and again and again.

In order to make a new choice, however, I first had to really face and accept who I am – in essence. Not who I’d like to be. You know, the line between improving oneself and denying oneself is blurry. I still want to improve myself: to be more open-minded, to be a mindful reader (not a mind-reader, though), to be more caring, to be disciplined, to learn to let myself relax on a regular basis, and so on. But when it came to college major choices, I just had to face the fact: I am more interested in the past than the present. I am more interested in humanities than sociology or political science or law. I am rather dreamy than “realistic”. I am a writer.
I used to think that these attributes of mine were flaws. Like bad posture or frantic sleeping pattern or negative thinking.
I no longer do, because I want to embrace myself the way I am. My family had the best intentions when they told me that while all of that was fine, I should pursue it as hobbies and have something “solid” for my career. I don’t know about other people, but I can’t live that way. I tried and almost broke myself trying.

The world might need its dreamers, thinkers, writers. But what I need is to be a dreamer, a thinker, a writer. Sometimes it’s that simple. And that terrifying.