Aren’t we all found out

IMG_20171130_100546.jpg

I’ve been spinning sad songs again. I find that when I am a little lost for words, I turn to the people who have them in abundance. Today it’s Conor Oberst, Tears will dry if you give them time/Life’s a roller coaster, keep your arms inside, he sings. On another day, this restraint would be comforting, but today does not feel like one of those days.

Time has got its talons into my back but my burden’s too heavy for it to lift me off the ground. The weight’s mostly in my head. That’s the bane of someone with an overzealous imagination.You are both apt at building castles in the clouds as well as gulags in the valley.

I’ve been thinking about my relationship with time. Some people treat it like a shadow you can’t seem to outrun, or a sleeping giant you have to tip-toe around. I’ve always treated it like the boy that sits at the middle section of a class, not quite brainy enough to be the first in line to answer a question nor delinquent enough to make merry with the louts at the back. Someone who was necessary to make up the numbers but doesn’t really leave an impression on anybody. Or that crazy bearded man you see on the street occasionally. The one that has you hoping that if you avoided eye contact with him long enough, he may just not notice you and leave you alone. I’ve been going about my life like time does not exist, avoiding any meaningful eye contact with it.

As such, it’s gone on its merry way, doing what it usually does and I am left here wondering if I had just missed the party of the year by going to the wrong home. The shout from the the societal yonder assures me that there is no such thing as too late. That we always have time to make something out of what resembles nothing. But I’ve been begging to differ. Or at least my head’s decided to.

I’ve always allowed myself time. Time to read a book. Time to grow up. Time to allow my tears to dry. Allowing yourself time in this existence is not a problem. My problem is that I’ve always allowed myself too much of it. My more encouraging friends have called it resilience and on some days, I’ve worn that as a bruised badge of honor. Today, it feels like a curse. Like I’ve missed a memo announcing something important and I’ve walked in on the tail-end of it and everyone’s staring at me with disbelieving eyes. My shoulders droop just a little more …

.   .   .

Conor is still singing. And find you a sweetheart to treat you so kind/Take her to dinner and kiss her goodnight/What I couldn’t teach you, soon you’ll realize/She’s the only thing that matters, he reminds me later on the same song.

I suppose every day has an end, just like today …

Advertisements

Two tongues

HVT
Today I am severely missing the gorgeous view at the Hooker Valley Track

I have come to understand that society in some ways, was built on contradictions.

When I was a kid, I was served a pair of opposing philosophies to approach the larger world. Firstly that ‘good things come to those who wait’ and secondly, ‘if you want something, you have to go out there and get it’. Both were served in largely equal measures depending on the situation and what my parents perceived to be the most effective strategy to get me to shut up.

If I dragged that out to a more adult context, it would be me shutting my whining about not getting that girl because who knows, she could walk in through the door if you wait long enough (I have come to know this as being completely bollocks) and if you want that well-paying executive job, you have to get into the face of the interviewer and show them that you really want it (can backfire and make you look like sad try-hard sod). I grew up not quite understanding how each philosophy properly applies, except to know that neither has really worked for me, in almost equal measures.

Then again, if you scaled that back further, a middle class Asian upbringing is often filled with stacks of ridiculous contradictions. How our parents want to feed us well and gawk at our salad-chomping ways but then complain when we get too fat. Or how they want us to work hard to earn an honest living but nag when we have to work late to meet deadlines. It’s like trying to score against a constantly shifting goalpost and feeling like a loser when you don’t, which is most of the time.

But it got me thinking about the byproduct of these contradictions. What happens to the people who have been raised this way? What kind of an adult do they end up being? Can someone really be untouched by such perplexing parenting and if so, what does that say about the effects of rearing anyway? We might as well just leave a child to grow up in the corner of a room if that’s the case.

Perhaps this is one reason why we have people who are quite adept at missing the point of something. I have watched families slowly being put to sleep because the father pours himself completely into work so that he can provide for the family. I have seen romantic relationships end because one person decided that the other ‘loves them too much’. Or how about people who accept the wonderful terms of a gracious God for their wretched existence, only to turn around and judge another for being not good enough to accept those terms.

It’s tragic when these things happen, because it’s one thing to stride for something and fail in our efforts to, it’s another to be served the assessment that the reason why things did not pan out was because you were busy trying to make that very thing work. It’s somewhat insane and yet it is happening everyday at places that are near each and every one of us.

That is somehow so sad and incomprehensible to me …

Like something worth remembering

mixtape7Can we realistically make our Mondays feel like Fridays? I spoke with someone recently who remarked that people at his workplace are actually glad they are back in the office after a long holiday. It’s apparently a relief. But for a lot of us, our relationship with work is at best on an ‘agree to disagree’ ceasefire. At passable, it’s a monster under the bed we’ve since learned to ignore. Many people have long forsaken the pursuit of that career utopia, to make work feel like a party that you get paid to do.

But let’s assume I have not given up on that pursuit, that I want to still latch on to the coattails of that thing I am passionate about and to soar into eternal career bliss – what is that one drug for me? I’ve actually not given it much thought before. I’ve answered ‘writing’ in recent times, but that’s me being frustratingly pragmatic and unimaginative. After all, out of all the things in this world that I love doing, writing is probably the most logically marketable. But let’s for the sake of resolution-less conversation chuck logic out the door for a bit and think blue skies and a blank sheet of paper – what is that one drug for me? The one thing that would make my Mondays feel like Fridays?

Probably making mixtapes   

Nothing greases the gears more for me than sinking my teeth into a juicy-themed mixtape. I got into the art when I was 21, about the time I started driving. Radio was going through a lean phase in the early 2000s over here so I made tapes to drive to. They started rather unobtrusively, just batches of songs I loved. Then I started weaving in themes, from 80s hair rock to contemporary indie. It was an actual labor of love then. To get 60 minutes on a tape, you actually had to slave in front of a deck for 60 minutes. Blood must have blood. There were no shortcuts.

These days, the art is less of an art. The dawn of digital music took a lot of the gleam out of the activity. Dragging 60 minutes of music takes less than 60 seconds. Blood no longer needs blood. Which is probably why I still periodically make physical mixes of my favorite songs. I recognise there are more efficient ways to do that but I do it because I still enjoy the process, not just the outcome. I enjoy taking my records out, ripping the tracks I want, creating folders for them, labeling the tracks the way you prefer, etc. Ticking a few boxers on Deezer just doesn’t quite give me the same buzz.

I hosted a no frills 90s party in 2015 as a themed party/house-warming do. I tasked myself with creating a party playlist of 90s essentials. It was a month-long labor of intensive research and compilation. I ended up with over 10-hours of music for a 3 hour party. So I created a 90s mix disc as a party favor. I had so much fun doing it that I am almost tempted to throw together an 80s-themed follow-up just so I can compile another mix. I already feel quite excited about the prospect of doing that just thinking about it. I could go from Depeche Mode to Bananarama. It would be a riot.

Yeah, that would be my drug. If I could make a career out of constructing music playlists, work would probably not feel like work anymore to me and being back at work would certainly feel like a relief if I was away for too long. Until I figure out how to do that, I shall shake hands with that monster under my bed and try my best to ignore its occasionally distracting grunts.

 

Don’t fight it, feel it …

51Yla9y6YtL

“We always employed people based on their personalities rather than their experience” – Alan McGee, founder of Creation Records

I’ve given fiction a bit of a rest these days. Not sure why, but I see interesting fiction books these days a little like stale coffee, a semblance of something I could’ve loved but have absolutely no interest to partake.

I’ve been pouring myself into memoirs, from the awful to the sublime, notable to the inane. I am currently 145 pages into the tell-all memoir of Alan McGee, the man who discovered Oasis and founded Creation Records. It’s an easy read, interesting only because of the context of the subject and what it means to me as a indie music fan growing up in the 90s.

But then on page 121 of my copy, in the midst of tales of drug hazes, tour debauchery and Kevin Shield’s ridiculous perfectionism, McGee weighs in on a bit of HR advice. That had me removing my snug-tee indie boy hat for a moment and putting on my HR one.

The concept is not new. Progressive companies have been discussing for years now about the relevancy of a curriculum vitae and how it can limit the potential of both employees in securing jobs they are truly passionate about; and employers in hiring a talent that is just waiting to be discovered.

The concept has always been appealing to me, but why? My mind shifts to the academic answers; because it gives a subtle fist towards outdated bureaucratic practices and of course, the ‘Can’t train an old dog new tricks’ rhetoric. There has to be fundamentally more than that. There is.

The main, I guess fallacy of ‘experience’ is that it immediately assumes that we willingly embody every bit of experience we’ve gathered. That is true to an extent but it very often negates the ‘how do we feel’ part.  A career path is not something you can scribble on a paper at 22 and assume it would define your work life for the next 38 years. Very often we have to experience some ‘career’ before we even know what we really want. Some people are lucky and find that at 22, others not so and find them at the smokey end of 39. We extend this concept to cars and to an extent, life partners but we ignore it when it comes to work. We shouldn’t.

‘Personality’ focuses on the ‘now’. On what is in front of you. It’s exciting, energetic and potentially revolutionary. It’s not what I had, it’s what I want. You can buy yourself a dictionary and be forever comforted by the notion that you have at least one grammatically reliable book on your shelf or you can take a punt on a saucy, possibly awful memoir and experience a left turn into the psyche of the unknown.

We must take that chance … all of us