I have been told that there are a few events in life when you are allowed a free wish. When blowing out your birthday candle On a wishbone On dandelions When you see a rainbow When you visit a church for the first time On a fountain When you chance upon seeing a shooting star… Why am I listing these things, you ask.
Just in the past few weeks, as I went on a trip halfway across the world, I was given way too many chances to make a wish. Rome, Assisi, Orvieto, Florence, Siena, Padova, Venice. I have lost count of how many new churches I entered. From cathedrals to chapels. Knocking on the doors of heaven each time. Lighting candles at altars. Asking my saints for all their intercession.
Then, I stumbled upon fountains. Spewing and spraying their water at the height of noon, as dusk came, brilliant lights through the night. I even threw a coin in one of them. And a video to show for it. My five second shot at fame, I gamely and jokingly chide my mom who also was my camera crew. You would think that I have these many things I may be wishing for. Or one thing I want fulfilled so fervently. Many or one that pushes all the silent whispers of my soul in those many moments.
And, as we left for home at the crack of dawn on our last day in Italy, there it was, just out of the blue, a shooting star. And to be honest, each time I had my chance to make a wish, I thought of him. The memory of summer days spent also halfway across the world. I just didn’t know what exactly to wish for or how to. So, I just asked that wherever he may be, he is well. And wherever I may be now or in the future, I will be well too. Did I waste my wishes? Well, each time I got bashful as I made my wishes, I get one audacious moment and mutter under my breath… Who am I kidding, Lord? You know what is in this heart. This is why you keep granting me all these chances to make a wish. Make them come true, in their rightful time. And with that, I stand up from the pew, throw the coin into the water, or follow the meteorite’s trail with my eye. And smile. My Promise Keeper is at work.
It’s been a while since I moved in. Back in February, I was just in a rush to find a place I could call home near my work. But it was not difficult finding one. Like a pampered child, I only went to two viewings and clicked really well with my current landlord.
It’s a place I now call home. Nestled in a slope in between beach shores and a hill, my window opens to more foggy days and beautiful sunsets.
I’ve always wanted a spot near the beach, a place near a college-town, a home near the park. I wanted to experience mornings where the best cafes are by the beach and morning coffee is served with sunrise on a bun. I wanted to have evenings walking and, someday, running through hilly streets with the burning calories masking the chilly night air.
And I got all of that.
Today, I went to get myself a doctor around the neighborhood.
Today, I took a tram to dinner and an errand at the bank.
Today, I walked home as the dusk fell, on hilly streets with my iPod and headphones on.
Today, I finally got my card to the city public library from the branch conveniently sitting on my block.
Today, I came home to the green house with the night door lights on, keyed in the lock to my unit and felt thankful and anxious at the same time.
Because… although definitely not tomorrow… but maybe someday sooner… I stand to lose this dream come true. Because it has a price. And I’m afraid the day is drawing nearer when I could no longer afford it.
Like in a summer night’s dream that began in early spring that I don’t want to wake from, my heart swells to the pool of tears brimming in my eyes.
So, this day was really fully packed, so I wrote them in themes from the dayparts of the day. Poetry in the Rain
Jet lag got the better of us and we absolutely did not get anything done the night we landed. We just slept until the very late hours, and there was nothing else to do when we finally woke up. So, we took another nap in the dawn and set off early on our first full day in Rome. The sky was overcast, like the day we came in, only there were bigger clouds, rain clouds. But we were troopers and did not want to waste a day in Rome, so we went ahead and went walking the streets nearby our hotel. We were located in Via San Eufemia, which was close to everything that mattered. Being close to everything does not mean we won’t get lost, however. My Rome iPhone App was not working as we needed, the GPS won’t locate us and it was hard to find to make it simulate our correct location. So, we just went ahead and tried to follow the signs. And signs in Rome are pretty confusing! They are in English, but still confusing. It was eight in the morning and the roads were practically deserted. I guess the Italians don’t really start a day until much later! We enjoyed strolling around empty streets while being lost. A few wrong and finally right turns later, we get to the Pantheon (now the Basilica of St Mary and the Martyrs). In photos, the Pantheon is very underrated. And it took a drizzle of rain before we learned about its beauty.
Sandra and I were taking photos by the fountain in the piazza in front of the Pantheon, until the rain started to fall. Without an umbrella, we were, thus, left with no other choice but to enter the Pantheon to seek shelter. And that’s when we both realized the beauty before us. The Pantheon’s dome is a hole with no glass on it. The purpose was to make the sunshine enter in with no barrier. When we came in, we thought there was glass as it still hadn’t occurred to us what happens when it is raining instead. The dome was very beautiful, as in the midst of a cloudy day, it still looked as though the sun was shining through it. The rain kept on pouring while we were there. And as a puddle formed in the center of the Basilica a.k.a Pantheon, we saw that the rain was showering inside, in that one fixed spot. We looked up to the dome and saw the rain droplets against the light. The feeling was so spiritual. It was an amazing surprise to find it like that. We spent half hour to an hour after that in the ‘shelter’ of the Pantheon, until we finally bought an umbrella for 5 Euros. Great start to our day!
Il Dolce Far Niente – you have got to see it in action to understand it.
Since the rain didn’t look like it was going to stop for a bit and the forecast was being accurate, we decided to try a Roman Caffeteria experience. We entered a coffee shop a few blocks from the Pantheon. There was an espresso bar in the front, like a normal bar, only it served coffee. People who were in a rush would be standing here, where the barista would give their espresso shot in a small espresso shot glass and they will drink it from there right at the bar. They take their time drinking their coffee there, even if they were rushing. People who were seated, like us, were served coffee in a laidback pace. Sandy and I both ordered a cappucino, and it was the best we both had ever. We were there for a good hour and a few minutes. Our server didn’t even try and make us leave and respected our time and space. It didn’t matter that we probably ordered the cheapest items on the menu, what mattered to them was we were enjoying our time.
And this is how I began to understand “Il Dolce Far Niente”. Loosely translated as per the Eat, Pray, Love book, it means “the sweetness of doing nothing.” It is not a lame saying or an excuse for lazing around. It is a part of an Italian lifestyle, when everyone would take their sweet time enjoying life as they have before them — be it having a cup of coffee with a friend, having lunch, or anything that in an American lifestyle is not work-related. Italians work hard but they also live beautifully. Hence, to them the quality of the time spent matters as much or maybe even much more than the quantity of time. Doing nothing is actually something.
Tu Belleza Es Tu Cabeza
Having learned the concept of doing nothing the Italian way, Sandy and I stopped by and shopped for a couple hours on Via del Corso. We scratched the day’s itinerary and just let our hearts decide what we could do. We stopped by a boutique called Omai. They had a great collection of clothing. We were helped by a Romanian sales staff, Monica. She was adorable! She helped me fit a couple dresses and also even suggested styles for me. This girl could definitely be a fashion coordinator or stylist. She wasn’t salespitchy at all as she did not force me to purchase anything and even was honest when a particular dress or wardrobe didn’t look right. She gave me a few reminders and tips, saying that I should not be afraid to wear color and to show off the right things on my body. What stuck with me was her wise advice — style and beauty is in my mind, apart from the right cut of course. I have to think and believe I can wear something and it will look good.
I really recommend Omai, as a boutique for fashion forward readers. Their unique yet elegant style can have H&M have a run for their money. They’re in the middle of H&M and BCBG in my opinion, but uniquely European or even uniquely Italian.
After a few hours in Omai, we stopped by Benetton which was also having a sale at that time. (Everything in Italy was on sale during this time of year, so if anyone is looking to shop in Italy, early July is the best time to go!) We were each given a tote bag by the saleslady at Benetton, when I paid for my purchase. The tote bag Sandra got had this printed on it — “Tu belleza es tu cabeza”, yep, if loosely translated it means “your beauty is your mind” Now, is that a sign or what?
Pasta in Bibo
After our shopping escapade, we went back to our hotel to rest up a bit and freshen up. Closer to dinner, we went to have our late lunch/dinner at the pasta restaurant across the street. Sandy had the Lasagna and I had the tortellini with mushrooms and ham. Both were good. The waiter at the restaurant also gave us antipasti (appetizers) of mini sandwiches — one was salmon and artichoke and another was tuna. These prosciuttos were also good!
Beauty in Ruins
After our meal, we headed off to the Colosseo which was also about a half hour walk from our hotel. We decided to take time doing so and have fun. We were trying to get to the Colosseo before sunset so the photography lighting would be perfect (and as most of you know, I almost lost those photos!)
Author’s note: This was written while out on a trip to Italy for the first time. I realized I did not get to post this then, so well, it’s never too late to relive memories. I am back-dating this to the real time it was written. They still come to me as if they happened yesterday. (September 1, 2012)
She had dreamed of this trip all her life. She dreamed of it as though it was a journey to find herself. She didn’t think it will be like this. As if running on empty. As if not having a clue as to what to do and where to go. Yet, she goes wishing this adventure will fill the palpable emptiness in her heart. It will not ever make up for the loss she just had to endure, but still she hopes that it will fill the void somehow. Even just a tiny droplet in that void.
She lifts the plane window, and is blinded with the bright sun. It is one of those days when it feels as if the day is endless. The light is blinding. Half the world is welcoming the sunset, another a sunrise.
She wonders how the afternoon will be like when she finally lands. She wonders if she will finally have a clue. Her thoughts float. Thinking about certain trivial things, whether she will get lost, or whether she will be finding. As to what she can find, she can only guess. Will the trains leave on time? Will the tracks be smooth? Will the trip be quick?
Will she come home with a thousand stories? And most of all, will she, finally, know where to go?
She pulls the plane window down, and only for a short while more, she takes comfort. At the solace of induced darkness. She can think it is still night, and find her rest for a while. Before she must face the blinding sunlight again with head held up high.
500 Days of Summer was a favorite movie of mine for it chronicled the rollercoaster that embody relationships. I understood it then when I first watched it. But now I won’t be able to say the same…
I came across this short docu of the stages of a relationship and for some reason I can no longer relate to it. Did I forget the art of relationships? Have I closed my heart on love? Or am I content and happy with life that I no longer believe that every relationship go through these stages? Maybe I just started to believe that there are mini-stages away from the final stage. Maybe, after all, I believe in forever.
Without further rambling, here is “Strangers, Again”. What do you think of it?
I attempt to capture them
These bubbles of inspiration
Signs of a passion
A life that keeps on breathing
A thirst unquenched
That fights even when not indulged
Holding out beneath the surface
Creating friction with the page
Or the cursor
In order to survive
A mind restless
With conclusions standing
At the crossroads
Of another genesis
Drowning in words
Kicking with thoughts
Saved by writing
Hey, it’s that season again. and really, I find myself not wanting anything this season. Except the opportunity to wish you all these things…
Comfort on difficult days
Smiles when sadness intrudes
Rainbows to follow the clouds
Laughter to kiss your lips
Sunsets to warm your heart
Hugs when spirits sag
Beauty for your eyes to see
Friendships to brighten your being
Faith so that you can believe
Confidence for when you doubt
Courage to know yourself
Patience to accept the truth
Love to complete your life
-from an author unknown-
Have a joyful season of wishing and giving everyone!!
Excerpted from a Facebook Note and immortalizing in this blog. Good reminders for living.
Written by Adrian Tan, author of The Teenage Textbook (1988), was the guest-of-honour at a recent NTU convocation ceremony. This was his speech to the graduating class of 2008.
I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.
My wife is a wonderful person and perfect in every way except one. She is the editor of a magazine. She corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.
On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable.
Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.
And so I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you’ve already won her heart, you don’t need to win every argument.
Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.
The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You’re done learning.
You’ve probably been told the big lie that “Learning is a lifelong process” and that therefore you will continue studying and taking masters’ degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers. Don’t you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.
The good news is that they’re wrong.
The bad news is that you don’t need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You’re in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy.
I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.
You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There’s very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and restful nap.
Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.
So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you’ll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper.
Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they’re 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn’t meet their life expectancy.
I’m here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy.
After all, it’s calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average.
Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.
That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.
If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.
What you should prepare for is mess. Life’s a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it. Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate.
Don’t expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look. This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows.
What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over.
Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free.
The most important is this: do not work.
Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By its very nature, it is undesirable.
Work kills. The Japanese have a term “Karoshi”, which means death from overwork. That’s the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left. A rock has been ground into sand and dust.
There’s a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are “making a living”. No, they’re not. They’re dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful.
People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense.
Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway.
Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself.
I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn’t do that, I would’ve been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction – probably a sports journalist.
So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don’t imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I’ll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions. By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher.
Find that pursuit that will energise you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working.
Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth. I’m not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth. Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is also great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence.
In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror.
I have told you that your life is over, that you should not work, and that you should avoid telling the truth. I now say this to you: be hated.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know anyone who hates you? Yet every great figure who has contributed to the human race has been hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many. That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross.
One does not have to be evil to be hated. In fact, it’s often the case that one is hated precisely because one is trying to do right by one’s own convictions. It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then one will gravitate towards the centre and settle into the average. That cannot be your role. There are a great many bad people in the world, and if you are not offending them, you must be bad yourself. Popularity is a sure sign that you are doing something wrong.
The other side of the coin is this: fall in love.
I didn’t say “be loved”. That requires too much compromise. If one changes one’s looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone.
Rather, I exhort you to love another human being. It may seem odd for me to tell you this. You may expect it to happen naturally, without deliberation. That is false. Modern society is anti-love. We’ve taken a microscope to everyone to bring out their flaws and shortcomings. It far easier to find a reason not to love someone, than otherwise. Rejection requires only one reason. Love requires complete acceptance. It is hard work – the only kind of work that I find palatable.
Loving someone has great benefits. There is admiration, learning, attraction and something which, for the want of a better word, we call happiness. In loving someone, we become inspired to better ourselves in every way. We learn the truth worthlessness of material things. We celebrate being human. Loving is good for the soul.
Loving someone is therefore very important, and it is also important to choose the right person. Despite popular culture, love doesn’t happen by chance, at first sight, across a crowded dance floor. It grows slowly, sinking roots first before branching and blossoming. It is not a silly weed, but a mighty tree that weathers every storm.
You will find, that when you have someone to love, that the face is less important than the brain, and the body is less important than the heart.
You will also find that it is no great tragedy if your love is not reciprocated. You are not doing it to be loved back. Its value is to inspire you.
Finally, you will find that there is no half-measure when it comes to loving someone. You either don’t, or you do with every cell in your body, completely and utterly, without reservation or apology. It consumes you, and you are reborn, all the better for it.
Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.
Lately, I’ve been doing many random things. I take the day and go with whatever it decides to inspire me with. I realize this should mean I have more to write about but as I am drifted through events I actually find less hours to actually write. That will change soon, I hope. As I am mesmerized with the beauty and vigor of life, I will force myself to write more so you may share in the whirlwinds that I flop myself into.
Last week, I took a trip out to greet a good friend on his birthday, after the many trips he’s taken out to see me on my birthdays and many other random days. It was a surprise visit that coincided with a business trip. And I will always cherish his amused face when he saw me at their office reception area supposedly to sign for his package. (I really should have worn a bow.) And within that same trip, I went to see Lady Gaga on a whim because she was playing at the arena near my hotel. Yes, I found tickets that were neither outrageous nor skyhigh. And I got Gaga-fied with a good friend. It was the first time for me to be amazed and disturbed at the same time.
And today, I bought tickets for a weekend in the streets of San Francisco — munching on nothing but awesome street food. It brings me pride that my country’s fares will be represented thanks to the adobohobo, sisig and hapasf trucks that will be there. It makes me excited to know that I will also get to try other cultures’ cuisine, in what I always say is the local way to enjoy things — streeting it. and all because twitter, email and everything else led me to it.
so in reverence to what i did earlier this year in trekking half the world over to fangirl in a foreign place, I present this side of me — the girl who is not scared to do things on a whim as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or harm anything.
random is revived.