the lives of others

Thinking about things

An often unadvertised side effect of law school is the feeling of inadequacy. Everyone knows it’s difficult, it’s a heck load of reading, but no one really told you you will wind up feeling shitty about yourself and extremely jealous of others. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle where the academic plankton of the cohort feels the strain and burden of scrapping passes in order to qualify for the bar (passing it is a different story entirely), the average student fears he should be doing more to catch up with his more illustrious peers, and the cream of the crop wondering if giving up all the other things in life was really worth it for those A grades. Rinse, repeat.

Yesterday, my professor invited a trio of lawyers to come speak to us in class on some issues pertaining to corporate crime prosecution. What struck me wasn’t so much the content (which was fascinating, but not the point of this post), but the profiles of those lawyers. Not just them, but all the other lawyers I’ve met, be it at internships, talks, pervasive online stalking… they seemed, and probably actually are, disgustingly successful in their careers. Stellar education credentials only boosted by years of impeccable lawyering work, they had all their shit together, gathered in fistfuls as they put bad people in jail, sought bajillions of monetary damages for their clients, et al. I shudder to think what inconspicuous contributions I can make to this world upon graduating next year.

Maybe you’re thinking I’m being melodramatic and harbouring illusions of grandeur by comparing my (only tentative, possibly non-existent, probably lacklustre, hopefully not disastrous) future legal career with these heavyweights. Maybe instead of the moon, I should be aiming for the stars. So I tried that, but it was even more depressing. I have schoolmates bringing home championship trophies like I bring home a McDonalds takeout. Schoolmates writing for academic journals. Schoolmates making it onto dean’s lists. And me? I forgot about the existence of my Chinese Contract Law assignment until the day before its deadline. I’m a gigantic mess and I know it. It’s not helpful being so self-aware.

Then I get bitter and sad when I think about other things, such as how I could actually be in Mannheim, Germany exactly right now, instead of sitting in this study room trying to hunt for a legal principle on copyright subsistence that does not, for the love of God, seem to exist. Then I get angry at myself for letting my brain wander off that far into the abyss when I have so, so many other things to be worried about. Like this research point that I can’t seem to address properly. Or my second learning journal for the creative thinking module I’m taking, that’s due end of this week. It’s Thursday already. Oh dear.

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on finding comfort in others

Thinking about things

I am a firm believer in the concept that we are in full control of our emotional responses to external stimuli – nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent, and etc. – so whenever I am feeling down in the dumps I try to get over it by telling myself to get over it. Because you can’t really change the circumstances that have already happened, nor can you change other people’s behaviour, so why not take the easy way out which is to change your own mentality?

Well, fuck that for today, because I got really pissed at someone. My abject levels of annoyance might have been irrational and oversensitive, but I would like to retain some shreds of credibility with my own emotions and try to reconcile what I felt with why I felt it.

Said someone had mentioned something offensive to me, in an attempt at what I can only assume was humour. The actual word used was “disgusting”. I did not find it the least bit funny, and it stung for a bit, because maybe deep (okay maybe not so deep) down, I felt I was disgusting too. Having someone else tell me just dug it to the surface and possibly cemented it. But how could I blame that person? It’s not like that person knew about how I felt about myself, nor did that person have a stellar track record in being the nicest person to me and I had more often than not brushed off all past ill-feelings with “oh, she’s just like that”. But there’s a limit to each and every tolerance, and here, one stupid remark was the tipping point.

So I did the next best thing, which was to turn to another friend for comfort.

Friend: maybe just don’t be too close to her already?

Me: what a rumble to my pathetically small circle of friends

It was comfort I am so glad I found, because there is nothing sweeter than understanding and commiseration from a fellow human. It was wonderful and it numbed all my earlier aggrieved sensations. I asked that friend whether she would have found it offensive (she did) and whether she thought I was overreacting (she didn’t). Ultimately, I was still human and I craved approval. It was everything I needed to recover, and I will eventually.

I don’t want to sound like a melodramatic baby, but the original comment still prickled like a bad insect sting, and I may not be able to have a proper conversation with that person again. But I suppose it was a nice change to push the blame on someone else other than my own lack of emotional finesse.

Hold me in this wild, wild world

Things I did, Thinking about things

It’s the last Friday night of summer; school starts this coming Monday. I’m sitting here at the dining table, listening to Queen (Greatest Hits II) and half-trying to do some readings (Corporate Crime, which is really just a bamboozle of big words like “Fraud”…. “Stock manipulation”… “Falsification of accounts” et al), half-reading inane articles on Facebook.

So yes, I am very happening. I also ate another packet of Oreo minis.

I’m also severely distracted because I have not been coping well with post concert depression after Bastille’s gig that happened 4 days ago. I thought I’d be over it by now, because I am a Mature Adult™ who can attend one concert, enjoy herself during the 90 minute set, buy some merch, then go home and move on with life. Well I didn’t buy any merch because they didn’t have the specific item I wanted, and because it was $50 for a t-shirt, $25 for a tote bag. Yeah…. no.

I also have zero ability in grasping the concept of moving on, because I keep getting drawn back into their songs, videos and other generally unproductive things (i.e. the Bastille tag on Tumblr). I have a newfound appreciation for every single track off Wild World, I find new meanings in each lyric… it’s heartwarming, but at the same time extremely unhelpful for someone starting school in 3 days.

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This was my second time hearing the lads live; 2015 seem like a distant memory, though I do remember odd specifics of their first show in Singapore. Dan wore a t-shirt I didn’t really like and his hair was a little messed up because he had been wearing a cap on and off. He introduced These Streets as his favourite song off Bad Blood; Eunice and I flailed because that was my favourite song too (childish, I know, but we were young and very much in love with their music, forgive us). We weren’t familiar with the band, and I didn’t know all the songs. But I’ve been to other shows before, and I had a sensing Dan felt awkward performing live. He didn’t keep his eye on the same spot for long, he moved around a lot, his dancing was adorably bad (and I say this as a big fan of his), and his little snippets of words between songs were just one notch above mumbling. But when he sang, it was surreal. A genuine sincerity bleeds through his sounds only matched by his vocal abilities. He howled where he had to, he went high for the extra oomph. Together with the pulsing drums and guitars and keys, it was a revelation.

We came out of the Coliseum overwhelmed, partially by the heat but more by the fact that we heard some of our absolute favourite songs, these same songs that accompanied us when we studied, when we were on the commute, being performed by our favourite band right in front of our eyes. It’s like, they sang these songs. They are real.

That was in January 2015; we were in our first year of uni. Fast forward 2 years, and I’m now in my final year; Eunice is off on exchange. When I now hear the opening lines of Pompeii, it almost feels like a passive aggressive jab at me and some of my badly made life choices. It’s trite law that things, including myself, change over time, so I found solace in some things that didn’t:

  • Dan’s dancing (still adorably bad, but getting less bad, and actually pretty funky),
  • My ability to remember lyrics to songs I hadn’t heard in a while, even if I can’t remember a case name I read some 20 minutes ago, and
  • How good it feels to lose yourself to the reverie of music.

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The stage seemed bigger this time around, or maybe this was because I was closer. Dan seemed steadier, more sure of himself, he even took song requests (played the wrong version though……… still waiting for WOL part 1). The people around me seemed nicer. There was this rabid girl in front of us who made signs for what seems like every single Bastille song, she was hysterical, her hair was flying everywhere. It was pretty sweet.

I still didn’t know all the songs, but the songs I knew, they were perfection. Warmth is my favourite off Wild World – the first verse is just depressing, but the chorus is redeeming. It’s as though you are being enveloped in a nice, long hug for those few lines, and you can sense the calm amongst an urgent storm.

And when I heard it live, the warmth settled in my stomach and for a second there all my problems dissipated.

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I never really gave this much thought until now, but the act of listening to music is actually a pretty intimate affair. Especially when everyone is plugged into their earphones, it is a stranger’s voice being fed into your ears with no barriers in between. With my levels of anxiety, I would feel so self-conscious if I was a musician. But I’m so glad Bastille decided to be, because their songs are some of the best things to reverberate in my ears, drowning out so many other terrible things.

You guys will never see this, but thank you so much for your music. It really soothes.

(Well. This turned out way longer than expected.)

Home is where I belong with you

Thinking about things

It’s been 4 days since I’ve been back from my 3 week (self-proclaimed) sabbatical in Myanmar. 3 weeks seem like a short time on hindsight, and even more so when compared to how long it’s been since the last time I went back — 3 years — but during the 19 days there, time passed so slowly my skin crawled.

Since the last time I went back (2014), a few things have changed. Yangon now has an international airport terminal. Several of my cousins have babies, thus I am now an auntie, and yes, I do not approve of being called that. I’ve grown; from a clueless 19 year old waiting to start uni with an unfortunate-looking haircut to a still-clueless-but-faking-it 22 year old equipped with longer hair, 3 years’ worth of law school BS skills and a penchant for matte lipsticks.

Going back is always a traumatic experience because I am inept at speaking both Burmese and general social mumbo-jumbo, so I could never quite retaliate in time if a relative says something ignorant/rude/passive-aggressive/stupid. I would like to think the BS skills I’ve cultivated in law school has alleviated a bit of this problem, and there is truly no greater satisfaction than when you get to correct your aunt’s misconception towards your future career (context: if you tell people in Myanmar that you study Law you are better off telling them you are Satan’s spawn).

My mantra was essentially: breathe, SH, it’s your life, not theirs. Then I smile at them and continue eating my lunch.

I’ve also brought back, as a souvenir for myself, enough mosquito bites to feed the mosquito equivalent of a small African village. My legs, frankly, look disgusting. The term I have settled on is a skinned pineapple — and despite what a certain someone said about it being fresh and juicy (and if you are reading this, yes, it was smooth), my current leg situation is really not a sight for sore eyes.

So you can only imagine my relief and exhilaration when I landed back on Singapore soil, and saw my mom sitting in Changi Airport McDonald’s waiting for me. I’ve never been more glad to be able to order food in English, to be able to drive on safe roads where the red light is not regarded as a mere suggestion to stop, and to be able to feel comfortable. I was never, and probably will never, be comfortable in Myanmar.

Letting go

Thinking about things

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

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It has been just about 2 weeks since the competition, one week since I came back. Honestly, it was only 9 days, but I can feel bits and pieces of me left behind in every nook and corner, both physically (i.e. my red scarf in that random club in Oxford, our bundle of authorities in my room, my scissors in Zurich Airport) and emotionally, the latter of which I really need to deal with instead of going through this vicious cycle of anger > pain > upset > anger at being upset.

I’ve properly talked to whomever I feel I can talk to, who specifically are: my parents, and maybe 2 or 3 friends in school. So that’s a lot of people, by my standards. I didn’t really manage to establish anything properly after those conversations; everyone tells me that this is a decision I have to make myself. But fuck, what stupid advice is that? If I could make that decision that easily on my own I wouldn’t be asking you and being so wishy-washy about this.

(If you are said friend who said this to me and you are reading this, I am sorry. I totally get where you come from and I am pretty sure I would say the same thing if I was in your shoes.)

Nonetheless, after a few attempts at making a pros/cons list in my head, I’ve made the decision, which happens to concurrently end 3 other decisions I made in the earlier few months of this year. And it’s only March.

So you see, a lot can change in a couple of months.