Saturday, May 28, 2011

When I Talk About Running

Source of picture: craaae
My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance – all of these are secondary. For a runner like me, what’s really important is reaching the goal I set myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied. From out of the failures and joys I always try to come away having grasped a concrete lesson... And I hope that, over time, as one race follows another, in the end I’ll reach a place I’m content with. Or maybe just catch a glimpse of it.
I hate running. Period. I don't have the stamina or will-power for it. I've tried liking it but it inevitably consumes my happiness and I'm left in a sweaty, defeated state thinking: "Why the hell did I ever think this was a good idea in the first place?". I remember having to run cross-country as part of the 'curriculum' in my sports classes, in primary and high school, and I would always come second to last... in a group of 50. Factor in the point where I was a severely overweight kid and overall, running was not my cup of tea.

Fast track several years later to when I was 18 (still overweight) and I haphazardly forced myself to attempt running, for the second time, on the treadmills at my local gym. That time was definitely better. As the weeks go past, I slowly built myself up to running at 5km for 10 minutes. I know that doesn't sound fast in the slightest but it was enough to make me shake with sweat and admit defeat. As funny as it sounds, each time I stepped onto the treadmill and ran, it made me hate the activity even more. For most people, achieving a goal would make them feel elated with joy and accomplishment, essentially happy. But in my case, running didn't do a damn thing for me. If anything, it left me miserable. I didn't have that feeling I was supposed to have after running and I boil it down to the fact that I couldn't shake the loathing of running. Unfortunately (or fortunately- whichever way you choose to look at it), I gave up on the treadmills and turned to group exercise classes instead, where I kick ass and feel on top of the world after a great session.

Haruki Murakami is one of my favourite authors. (Side note: I'll definitely be posting more of his books in future posts). His works predominantly consist of fiction novels set in contemporary Japan but he has published a few non-fiction memoirs, Running being the first of them. Over 4 months. he documents his preparation for the (in)famous New York City Marathon. The memoir details what types of races he runs, where he trains and of course, what he thinks about when he is running. The book itself didn't incite me to strap on my trainers and go for a 10km run. After all, I hate running, remember? But it was inspirational, nonetheless. His book reinforced my attitudes towards attaining goals whether they would be towards exercise, career or simply being the best I can be, in whatever I choose to do, regardless of the burning sensation in my body.

I'm not a competitive person by nature (although, I do say that I am the best in who I am, haha). I find it hard to gather the mentality that allows me to overtake those I see as threats. Very rarely could you find me doing competitive sports growing up. Unless I am striving for something very important, I'm all too willing to let someone else have the crown. Murakami, and some runners, are the same in that way. In long distance running, the only competition that truly exists is between you and time, which I hope is fair to say, my approach with most things. The only person I have to overtake is an abstract concept- time, negative ideals and attitudes or myself.

For Murakami, he found it through running and writing. I found it through 4 years of intense cardiovascular activity at my gym, martial arts and school. We, inevitably, reached the same conclusion about hard work.

"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bread Platters, Wine Glasses and Friendship

Source of picture:
"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit." - Albert Schweitzer
Last weekend, I had a beautiful lunch with good friends at Swan Valley- an establishment filled with vineyards, farms, wineries, restaurants and gorgeous, open landscapes. The drive up there is enough to satisfy your eyes. Although I revel in a fast lifestyle, it's nice to sit quietly from time to time and ponder. You know, so as to not burn out too quickly on life's absurdities. There's something relaxing and comforting in being able to drive away from city life and have a taste of early retirement. So far, it taste like fresh edam and camembert cheese. There's also a dainty, upper class, "poshness" to it. What can I say, any chance for elegance and regality... It's a nice change from parking my ass in front of the TV and shoving chocolate in my mouth at regular intervals.

This is an annual event for a couple of close uni friends and I (and by annual, I mean to say that we did it once last year, roughly during the same time of the year). Last year, one of the boys dressed very inappropriately for the drive up there (he dressed in an oversized jumper, shorts and thongs - like he was going to his local pub!). So by a unanimous decision, we forced him to go back home and change into something a little more suitable for a day in the green. Also, it was slightly raining and chilly that day so we convinced him he would catch a cold if he didn't put something a little warmer on. After that minor hiccough, we went on to dine at a quaint winery with a lovely, calm atmosphere. I still remember that winery very vividly- wooden benches, purple and green vines hanging from the wooden planks off the ceiling and strategically placed wooden barrels around the restaurant. The light drizzle made an already beautiful landscape, perfect. We chatted, laughed and delicately stuffed our mouths with delicious bread, cheese, chorizo and wine. I don't think one of us remembered that we had exams the week after. This was, by far, my favourite day last year.

This year, we were sans boy-who-dresses-inappropriately-for-weather (he's since graduated and returned to his home country). Nonetheless, we made the drive up to Swan Valley, once again. We ate our sourdough bread, drank pear cider and Jane Brook Chardonnay and reminisced over strange uni moments as well as our dreams, goals and plans. We topped off the day with delicious hand made chocolates from the Margaret River Chocolate Company. To me, this trip was quite sombre. We were down one friend, and it was going to be our last trip to Swan Valley as a group before all of us graduate. Needless to say, it didn't have the same feel as the year before.

As much as I say I want to move out of my hometown next year, I'm sorely going to miss moments like these. But that's a given right? Of course we're going to miss those we leave behind or move away from. It is not so much the actual location itself that will be missed (although, in my case, I will miss open green fields and good food) but rather, the people we share it with. I've only known my uni colleagues for a year and a half but they have seen me joyous and depressed- just as I have seen them at their extremes. All of us are onto bigger and better things once next year comes around and I am fearful for the time when we would be pressed simply to even contact each other by phone.

I guess all I can do for now is to grasp onto the here and now. I'll try and enjoy the friendships as they stand in the present- just like it's best to enjoy wine and cheese at its freshest.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

You Are What Your Bag Contains

I'm sure this is quite a deviation from all the "enlightening" writings that I post up. But I feel the need to inform you why my bag weighs the same amount as a pile of bricks. Also, this is a response to Laura Valerie's post on her blog, Pretty Poesy.

From top left, clockwise:

Visual Aids - I need glasses. I've always had a short sighted problem since I was 12 and have been wearing glasses ever since. To make things slightly better, I have a multi-coloured striped case to put my frames in (which is rarely put to use considering I have to wear my glasses all the time). As of now, they currently act as storage for my contact lenses and solution. You can also find a pair of Marc by Marc Jacobs sunglasses I purchased in Hong Kong. They are my first pair of designer sunglasses and I would be quite upset if I accidently sat on them. (Hence, why you should always keep sunglasses on your face and not on your bum. Haha. Lame joke.)

Make Up/Make Up Utensils - Beautiful Chantecaille powder foundation and lip gloss, although, the foundation is too dark for my face in winter, so it needs to be used up very soon. Otherwise, I'll have to put it in storage with all of my other half-used beauty products that I've been too lazy to throw away. An Etude House mirror, that was given to me as part of a "going-away" present from my former Singaporean work colleagues. I use it primarily to check out potential husbands while pretending to fix my face. Crabtree and Evelyn Pink Grapefruit and Cucumber body mist for the midday touchups. I imagine this is what heaven smells like. Sasa Tinnie blotting paper for my face. My face is very oily and I found I needed them everytime I stepped out of an air-conditioned office into Singapore's humidity. Not so much use in Perth now, but still handy to keep in the bag.

First Aid Kit - Tic Tacs or any form of prevention for bad breath is a must. I also find that they help when I'm bored. The standard band-aids and tissues are a no brainer for clumsiness. And.. er.. tampons. Keep hydrated throughout the day with a bottle of water. You may also find the odd bottle of Pokka Green Tea lying around. I always keep a fresh pair of stockings in my bag. You never know when you'll find yourself wandering into a shoe store trying out the next best thing.

Wallet - I bought my Anna Sui wallet in Hong Kong and treat it as if it were a living, breathing animal. I wasn't a fan of big flat wallets until I bought this but knowing I can store all my cards, cash, coins and other miscellaneous items in one convenient location, converted me. It's surprisingly still well-presented and intact after 2 years. Also, the colour is creamy gold - appealing on the eyes. Enough said.

Reading and Writing Material - I'm getting into the habit of bringing a small novel with me everywhere I go. This stemmed from the frequent morning/evening train rides to and from work in Singapore. I would endure a 30 minute train ride and would often be sandwiched up against many other commuters so reading a book allowed me to focus on the text in front of me rather than ponder questions about body odour. Furthermore, always bring something to write on and to write with. I have a Moleskin notebook which I bought last year and I love it. I jot down anything from ideas about blog posts to appointments with friends to songs I intend to download (legally). My Smiggle silver ball point pen was given to me as part of a travel gift from a Perth friend. Oh, also bring a blank USB with you, especially if you work in an office or are studying. Technology is advancing, kids.

Electronics - My Blackberry (or Crackberry) is my third limb. Communication is essential! Also, my iPod. I am a musical being at heart and it's a great way to de-stress from craziness and an even better way to escape from people talking. If I wanted to listen to a person talk, I'd use my phone. Simple.

Keys - Don't leave home without them. You'll need them to get back in.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Higher Power

Picture taken from ninbra
Today on the train, I heard the following statement:

"I don't get why people are religious. It's all fake anyway." 

I avoid the topic of religion in conversation. It is not because I don't hold any opinions on it. It's simply because I believe religion to be a very sensitive, private matter and should only be talked about responsibly. And very few people do. For the purposes of this post, I'll do my best to be one of those who give careful thoughts to their words.
I am not religious - that is to say I don't actively practice a faith. I did so when I was younger but my father, a convert, has always told me to think for myself. He never subscribed me the title of a Muslim child. He, himself, has been known to bend the 'rules' every now and again. And I guess it was because of him that I choose not to follow Islam to the core but retain those principles that reflect compassion, tolerance and overall, principles that better me as a person. So if one were to narrow my identity down to my beliefs, I guess that makes me "an ultra-cool-spiritual-being-who's-adopted-a-certain-ethos-from-all-faiths-who-also-likes-doing-yoga-and-enjoys-long-walks-on-the-beach."

Sad to say, not everyone holds a similar thinking. When I was overseas, my auntie (who is, thankfully, a very progressive and reasonable person), revealed a conversation she had with my mum. My mum said to my auntie: "I know I'm not the most conservative person, but if I've raised my daughter to be good, compassionate and to lead her life well, then I've done my job as a mother." I found out later that this conversation was started because my faith was questioned by my family members. All of this, as a result, have left in one or two of them avoiding me like the plague. But I guess that's family for you, huh? (What puzzles me most about all of this is that there is a convenient ignorance on the part of their teachings where questioning another's faith is a sin.)

Even though I am lax in my religious ways, I am fascinated by stories about those who have found "God" but more importantly, if there was a clear moment of revelation. I remember having a conversation with a classmate outside university, last year. She was a drug addict (and a heavy one at that, using all sorts of drugs imaginable) but stopped her addiction when she found God, sitting in the back of her car in a drug induced haze telling her that "this is your last chance, snap out of it". Now, if it was the drugs talking or something else, it was enough to abandon that lifestyle and steer herself onto a healthy path. Consequently, she is devout in her religious practices.

Often I think, I wish I had something concrete in my life to bring comfort. That no matter what hardship I experience, there's someone to tell me that there is an order and cause - and I will not be judged, but forgiven for my wrong doings. To some extent, I feel jealousy towards those who have found it in religion.

If, after all of the chaos attached to it, there's no God, no afterlife, no soulmates, no nothing... then so be it. But for now, I won't tell a 3 year old child that Santa Claus isn't real. If it makes them happy and have purpose to get out of bed in the morning on Christmas Day, I'll let them be.
"Faith is more than religion and social structure. It provides hope, stability... A sense of belonging. The surety that you are a good person, absolved of your sins. The knowledge that somebody (God) loves you, even though they know everything there is to know about you. That life has meaning, that there is some sort of order and justice to things. These are all things that everybody searches for, in some way... and some people find the answers through religion. Which is sometimes life-affirming, life-changing and/or life-saving; and therefore, worthy of our respect." - Laura Valerie, One April Morning  *
* I didn't ask her directly for her permission to use this quote, but I'm hoping she will forgive me for it! Please check out her amazing, beautifully written blog!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Oh Darling, Let's Be Adventurous

Picture courtesy of fuckyeahtravel

Wanderlust: A desire to travel, to understand one's very existence

Two late night conversations with great friends inspired this post. The first was over a late night dinner which primarily involved butter chicken and naan with the odd bouts of travel talk. My butter chicken friend is heading off to the UK and Europe next month to explore the regions and visit friends and family. Needless to say, she is extremely excited about it all. I am very jealous - all that I have to look forward to next month is a winter intensive unit.

The second was over the phone for a general catch-up (this included my friend confessing that she dreamt that I had married a tall, dark and handsome Middle-Eastern man and we were shacked up in a mansion in Dubai). I would say that this conversation held my attention by a long shot. Pretty soon the conversation turned towards travel, again. It is slowly starting to dawn on me that I am unable to escape from it (well, not that I really want to talk about anything else; the only escaping I want to do is out of my hometown). Travel was all we talked about for 40 minutes over the phone. We both concluded that Europe, mid next year, is on the table. Understandably, I jumped online and took a quick look at some organisations, such as TopDeck and Gap Adventures, to start planning what we could do.

In some very twisted way, I like being pushed out of my comfort zone. I am, generally, a calm and collected individual. But I love hustle, bustle and chaos. Hence why some of my most beloved places in the world that are notoriously known for 'not sleeping' seem to be my calling. I've also been watching episodes of An Idiot Abroad, a Ricky Gervais production where his moronic friend travels to all seven wonders of the world. As with any Ricky Gervais production, hilarity is more than often ensued but jokes and the misery of one man aside, at the end of each episode, Karl is willing to change his one-set outlooks on the world. Although he is defeated and miserable at the end of a tiring journey to truly enjoy the wonders, his willingness to be pushed outside his comfort zone is commendable.

My (favourite) aunt has traveled the world extensively when she worked for an airline company. I can't help but feel jealous when she tells her stories of staying in $2000-a-night hotel rooms along the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy ala Angelina Jolie in The Tourist. I don't intend to come across as a person who loves travel when "You know, as long as it's clean and they speak English and it's safe." I want to experience the extremes of travel. I know people who have traveled to Antartica and braved the freezing temperatures then gone on to rural safaris in northern Africa. If you could attribute this to my competitive side, I hope to visit the extremities of this world (starting with the seven wonders of the world) before age takes over.

Travel truely broadens the mind by forcing you to immerse yourself in a different environment and accept what is given to you. But on a personal touch, it allows one to understand their very being. Being pushed on the outskirts of familiarity, makes you realise exactly how much your mind is willing to accept. I don't like to see myself as simple minded but there's definitely room for improvement. For me, this is the time to be saving some moolah and jetting off to far away places. I refuse to let my mind linger in one position for too long.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Herbal Tea, Fruit Smoothies & Cover Letters

Source of picture:veranoazul
My fingers are itchy and I need to take a break from all the cover letters that I've barely started writing. I'd say this is the perfect combination for a blog post on a somewhat respected online forum. I'm kidding. I'm sure are the best in what they do and take every step to ensure that its users are satisfied with their service. (Please don't delete my blog!)

Here are some of the enlightening thoughts that are running through my noggin:

I attempted Pilates this morning, for the second time in ... my life. All I can say is that it is terribly difficult for something that looks like a 5 year old could do with ease. In saying that, a 5 year old would have the appropriate flexibility to take on the poses standing on his or her head. Getting old(er) is a b****.

Listening to music by Train. Music gold. Can you imagine no first dance, freeze-dried romance, five-hour phone conversations, the best soy latte that you ever had, and me? Still stands as one of my most beloved lyrics.

I want to travel to Spain where the rain falls mainly on the plain. Broadly speaking, I want to travel to Europe after I graduate mid-next year. By this time, I hope to owe it to myself to take some time off and celebrate the end of some harsh years with the rest of the world. I don't know where I will go or who I will go with, but adventures like these need to be taken. If only the bank account would agree. Not looking forward to staying in on Friday/Saturday nights for the next year. Someone find me a rich boyfriend... STAT.

Maybe it's due to the lack of H2O in my diet of fried chips and chocolate dessert but I'm feeling quite lethargic. I could use some of those delicious fruit smoothies sometime soon but as of this moment, I will settle for Pokka Jasmine Green Tea and an abnormally large, genetically modified-looking Fuji apple.

Oh well, back to trying to impress future employers. I hope all of this bodes well with my mediocre career soon.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Toast To All That Is Great

Source of picture: Anna And Molly
It's the father's 80th birthday today. Happy Birthday, Dad! I'm just glad he lived another year to see Justin Beiber get egged by a passer by. He enjoyed his hearty lunch at a Chinese restaurant (somehow not a fan of European cooking) and blew out his "80" candle on a Coffee Pecan Torte. Mum and I were going to get him 80 individual candles but figured it would take at least an hour for us to find that many sticks and another hour for him to blow it all out.

I'm now waiting for him to pull me aside and give me another life lesson through his "Sabrina, I want to talk to you about something..." approach. I dread these conversations. Usually they result in me tearing up at the realisation that he won't be around for much longer. I avoid having these particular discussions as much as I can but it seems unavoidable as long as I'm living at home and am unemployed.

But truth be told, I learnt more about him and myself in the time I was in Singapore than I had known throughout my life. Going out for dinner every night with him for a month, we were able to have intimate discussions and find out what I was going to do with my life. I hated the content of those talks but somehow, I loved him more for it. In that case, maybe all of our conversations weren't that bad. They made me focus on who I wanted to become and how to become that person by the way I lived my life.

So here's to dad for being fit, active (mentally and physically), wise, cynical, talkative and loving. I hope to see you for your 81st.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Defeats of Trepidation

Source of picture: theparamour
Fear has always been a fascinating concept for me. (Side note: If anyone is generous enough to buy me a copy of The Culture of Fear by Barry Glassner, it would be very much appreciated.) Fear brings out interesting qualities in humans. Why do some of us let this concept hold us by the neck, while others react with such vigour when faced with daunting scenarios? It's somewhat amazing as to what we are capable of doing and feeling when we are faced against our demons.

I'd like to think that I face fear head-on. While I was still in high school, I remember one moment where a Japanese teacher of mine made me and my classmates sit in a circle and mention our strongest qualities - in Japanese. Our teacher gave us an example so we could understand how to structure our sentences and adjectives. The example she used was this:

"I think Sabrina is brave."

I'd never forget the moment when she said that to not only me, but the whole class. (I hope she truly meant it, otherwise this post up to now will be very embarrassing for me.) To this day, it still stands as one of my favourite moments in high school (although, to be frank, there weren't that many to begin with). To my close circle, I've been to known to stick out my neck for those I care about to the point that I am known as the girl who has no fears. (Yes, I'm slightly gushing as I type this out.) But underneath this thin veneer of bravery, at times, there's nothing I feel more than hopelessness. Other times I feel the need to give up because what I'm facing is hurting me too much or I discover that the results aren't going to be worth my struggle.

Some worrying thoughts arise if I find myself in this position. After fear has been defeated, has it truly been conquered - in every sense of that word? What if those same fears arise again? There are moments when I'm tempted to back down and I admit that sometimes, I'm not strong enough to face my demons alone. Defeating my fears once does not necessarily guarantee that those fears will not return and we might think we have overcome the worst of our pains but the courage and strength really lies in how we handle ourselves when faced with the possibility that it could creep back at any time.

So how can the so-called "girl with no fear" brave each trepidation that's thrown her way? I'll tell you this: The biggest fears us mere mortals will ever have to face in our lifetime lies within our minds. Thoughts brought on by our troubles are much more toxic to us than physical harm ever will be. The truly unfortunate thing about fear is that it will never completely disappear but the only 'ammunition' we have to fight with is our own heads. Fight the troubles in your mind, with your mind. Know that something great and worthwhile lies behind each and every single fear. Stay strong and pack your artillery system with hope and faith. We are not powerless. Fight.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Romaticism, Selfishness and Hypocrisy

Source of picture: flyinghighdreamingbig
The following is an article I read on Thought Catalog. I am a fan of the writers on this website. I've come to enjoy their certain knack for delivering sensitive issues in such a blunt manner.

"On International Women’s Day I went to a Toril Moi lecture. It was about a novel by Simone de Beauvoir and it was being given in honor of a fellow at another college who had died recently. The first thing I thought when Toril Moi stood up on stage was, well, she’s hotter than I thought. I felt that I should not have thought that. But why did I think that?

I combine chauvinism with prudishness. That could be a definition of Romanticism. Why do I tell myself I’m proud of the fact that I have never slept with somebody I didn’t love? It’s not that I haven’t wanted to. I would have slept with Toril Moi in a second. Or maybe I wouldn’t have. Maybe it would have felt weird and wrong. Is this feeling of pride just a way of excusing myself for not having slept with more people? Why would that warrant an excuse?

In High Fidelity, John Cusack’s character cares mainly about men, not women. When he finds out his first girlfriend got married to the boy who stole her from him, he is happy. Being dumped for the future husband is like being knocked out of the playoffs by the team that will go on to win, and that’s okay. So is it all about some great big score-board in the sky?

I lose interest in girls when I hear they’ve slept with people who did not love them, or whom they didn’t love, or really anyone. I hate the thought of anyone I know sleeping with anyone at all. Except me, obviously. I think that the saddest thing about love is knowing that there were other lovers before you. I don’t even allow myself to think there will be others after. Does that mean I’m just worried that I won’t live up to the memories of other men?

Love is a way you can escape from being crushed by not being the best. There’s always someone better than you, even at the thing you do best in the world. I find that hard to live with. But the thing about love is that you can find someone for whom you’re the best person in the world. But what if you’re not? What if she’s thinking about someone else? How can there be more than one best person?

I think a part of love is trusting someone totally. I think it is, unlike most things in life, about intentions and not outcomes. It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t buy the flowers that you wanted to buy or if the shop just happened to be closed (look up the Wendy Cope poem, “Flowers”). But it does matter if you want to sleep with someone else, even if you don’t. Is that true? And so then why wasn’t I completely trustworthy when I felt like I was in love? How can love be about trusting but not be about being trustworthy?

Shyness is an excuse, maybe, but it’s also a kind of narcissism. In my experience, the really humble people are often the most outgoing. They are more interested in other people than themselves. Like the believers who walk out into the road without looking, they know that if they die (out there, on that stage) they’re going to heaven anyway. In bed at night when I feel lonely, I think of someone being there with me, not of me being there with someone.

I want to perform (and frequently imagine) romantic gestures of great scope and artistry. For someone? But mainly to make myself look good and to justify myself. I only want to put one point up on the score-board. But it has to be the greatest, most magnificent, most virtuosic, timeless point that anyone has ever scored, because it’s all about me."