Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Diary of a Young Girl

Picture found on:
"I have often been downcast, but never in despair; I regard our hiding as a dangerous adventure, romantic and interesting at the same time. In my diary I treat all the privations as amusing. I have made up my mind now to lead a different life from other girls and, later on, different from ordinary housewives. My start has been so very full of interest, and that is the sole reason why I have to laugh at the humourous side of the most dangerous moments." 
My apologies for beginning this post with a horrible confession... When I was made to read Anne Frank's diary in my early high school years as part of the English curriculum, I read the first half of her book and didn't bother with the rest. Reflecting on that now, I feel terribly guilty about it and I should be brought up before a "Literary Board" for disciplinary action.

I guess I should start by defending my actions. Here's the thing. I'm sure those who are reading this post don't need me to explain Anne Frank's legacy... Anne Frank's diary is not only a work of history but it is also a wonderful piece of literature. And with any piece of good literature, it is to be enjoyed and reflected upon at one's own leisure. So when you're 'forced' to analyse the crap out of a beautiful book, attend a class full of kids who don't want to partake in tedious discussion, and be made to read 'so-and-so' pages in one day, one can surely sympathise with my actions! Setting a book of this calibre, as part of a learning curve in a rowdy Year 9 English class, was not going to be a successful manoeuvre by any means. In fact, it removed any sense of enjoyment that reading is supposed to give. And at that time, I was more concerned about hanging out with friends and watching mindless reality TV shows, to give any care for her work. I could apply this to all books that we were 'forced' to read in high school. (Apart from My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult... as this book was set for a Year 12 class sitting an English exam, so everyone had to pay attention.)

Reading her diary the second time around (from cover to cover), I finally had the chance to soak in how truly wonderful her story is. I was able to take in all her hope, misery, love and ambition portrayed through the pages. At parts, joyous, and at others, terribly sad. For me, the hardest part was reading her hopes and dreams she hoped to achieve, once she was able to step out of the Annexe - and sadly, could not be fulfilled. Thankfully, not all was lost. Her dreams to become a famous writer were seen, and the world was better for it.

I remember a question that was put to my English class one day (please don't ask me how I remember this...):

Would Anne Frank's diary had been as successful if she had survived?

Having now read the diary in full(!), my answer is no. The beauty in her work lies with the sadness of her death. We're not able to ask her the meaning behind her letters and must settle for the abrupt, incomplete ending to her diary. World War 2 and the Holocaust speaks of terrible grievances around the world and Anne Frank's diary is a reflection of light to an otherwise horrendous darkness. The faith and hope shown in her writing is something we all hold onto during times of unhappiness - it's a survival mechanism for those in hardship. And the ability to reach and connect to those who read is something all writers try to achieve. It is no wonder that her writings has secured their place as one of the most famous in history. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Writing Your Way To What You Want

Source of picture: gregoryhogan

The following is an article I stumbled across when I was supposed to be doing something more important than being unproductive. I willed myself to gather a head start on my university readings but soon enough, that goal fell by the wayside.

I think this article sums up the reasons why I like to write and part of the reasons behind the creation of this blog...
There is an art to living—to creating your life on your terms based on your desires, your talents, your values, and your dreams.
I didn’t know how to get what I wanted.  I just kept writing about what I wanted.  And as I continued to write, I became clearer and more specific about the life I wanted to create.
The practice of writing in a journal is a powerful tool for cultivating what you want from life. We are artists, creating our lives out of the materials of our experiences, thoughts, and dreams.  When we write, we empower ourselves and breathe life into what we want and how we want to live. You can’t always know exactly how your desires will materialize into reality.  This is where faith comes in.  If you show up, listen to and speak from your heart, and then let go of the need to know how, you can let the universe or God or quantum physics or whatever that thing is that helps our dreams become a reality do its magic.
If you could create your life to be exactly how you want, what would it look like?  Dare to imagine the perfect life for you—what kind of person do you want to be?  What kind of people do you want to spend time with?  How do you want to feel?  How do you want to make the people around you feel? Where do you want to live?  What do you want to do for your work?  What do you want your home to look and feel like?  How do you want to live—do you want freedom, stability, love, acceptance?  Do you want adventure, wisdom, and laughter?
Remember always, you are the ultimate artist creating your life.
- Jana Krawczyk in 'Writing Your Way to What You Want'
My aims for this blog are detailed in my first post, New Blog Beginnings. I am not an aspiring writer nor do I wish to be the next best thing on the Top 10 Bestsellers List. I will leave that to those who are truly talented in the field. My purpose behind my writings is to communicate my thoughts and feelings to myself in an orderly, reasonable manner - to reflect, be critical and to be better understand why things are the way they are. And anyone who happens to stumble upon my posts and contribute positively to the discussions is a bonus. I try to think of this as an extensive character building exercise.

As for the obvious question, "What do I want from life"? I can't answer that just yet. But with every post published on 'Strength of the Soul', I hope to edge closer to finding out what that is.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Empire State of Mind

Source of picture: sprengben
"You come to New York to find the ambiance that will evoke your best. You do not necessarily know precisely what that might be, but you come to New York to discover it."
- Dr. James Hillman, American psychologist
My love for New York has only come into fruition this year. That's not to say I've never had amorous feelings towards the city before. It's simply due to the fact that a collection of my experiences this year has helped emphasised that feeling. I attribute it to the travel bug, the books I've read which have been set in New York, and the strange attraction towards unblinking neon lights that has strangely festered within me. 

Quite embarrassingly, it was after sitting on the couch for the whole week watching the Masterchef Australian contestants compete in their 'New York Challenge', that had got me talking (or in this particular case, blogging). Unfortunately, the show did nothing to help widdle away the sad thought of having to study for another year. It also did nothing to help my bum, which probably grew to the size of New York during that week.

I've mentioned my extreme fondness for this city several times on this blog. McGee's Pub (the inspiration for McClaren's Pub) in How I Met Your Mother, Will and Grace's Manhattan apartment, the Ed Sullivan Theatre for the David Letterman show, the streets of Manhattan as shot on Law and Order: SVU... are all places I would like to show my presence in. (I'm well aware that I must limit the amount of influence TV shows have on my life decisions.) To be clear, American television shows aren't the only reasons I want to travel to this great city (although, I still believe it to be an extremely valid one). As for the food culture in this city, the Michelin-star restaurants and street vendors speak well enough for themselves. I'm salivating at the thought of a delicious hot dog.

I'm also willing to make Wall St. and the Financial District a high priority on my "Places to visit", whilst not forgetting Central Park's beauty. The United Nations for the fight for peace and globalisation, the Empire State building for it's beautiful architecture, the Statue of Liberty for the iconic symbol of independence and freedom. Ground Zero... for the reminder that pain and suffering are inevitable in our lives.

Let's hope that I've the opportunity to visit the intellectual and cultural hub of the world. A city so rich in diversity and opportunity that it makes me giddy with excitement to even ponder the prospect of travelling there one day! Hopefully, within the immediate future because the lights and billboards are calling for me...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Accidental Billionaires

Source of picture:

Facebook needs no introduction. I have an account, and I can bet my life savings ($3000) that whoever is reading this post has an account or had one at some stage. It's "revolutionised" the way people interact with one another online. It's also "revolutionised" the way we procrastinate. I set up my Facebook account towards the end of 2007... in the middle of my university exam period. No, not the brightest idea I've had as an 18 year old.

I saw the movie The Social Network (which was inspired by The Accidental Billionaires) last year and enjoyed it immensely. I was fascinated by how the movie played out. Stories and flashbacks told during a litigation was a genius concept. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit, but to a law student watching the film, anything remotely relating to law makes me feel like I have a leg up in understanding the film over everyone else. I also have a fondness for intellectual property* so the reason behind the lawsuits kept me engaged.

The concept behind this website is genuinely intriguing to me. A website that is now used by millions of people across the world was created in a random Harvard dorm room. And it rose to it's status through 'betrayal' and the 'back-stabbing' that attaches itself to immensely successful work in the corporate world. Truly greedy, ruthless and cut-throat. Yes, I love a good drama.

So The Accidental Billionaires details with the who, what, where, why and how of the social network. It changed the way people connected. It crushed its competitors. It tore relationships apart. It is at the top of its game and shows no signs of slowing down. But, who knows? Google Plus may have something to say about that in a couple of months time. (With whom, I will not be creating an account anytime soon. There's only so much a human being can take of people one doesn't like, or even knows, requesting to be a 'friend'. One social network is enough for my liking.)

*Hey, it is a perfectly legitimate interest one can have... although it is subject to me being called a nerd from time to time...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Finding Memorable Needles Within Haystacks

Source of picture: dagnybjorg

2 days -  the amount of time it took to clean the contents of the home's tiny 2.5x3m study room. Well, it's not so much a study room these days. It's what I'd like to call the "spare/multi-functional room". Over the years, it has stood in as my bedroom (from ages 4 to 14), a study room (from ages 15 to 19) and a 'spare room' (from ages 20 to present). My mum, dad and I, have lived in this house for 16 years and in all that time, piles and piles of paper, toys and trinkets have accumulated and gathered dust, in that very tiny vacinity.

Cleaning this room wasn't a planned decision. Maybe one could consider this a 'practice run' when I eventually move out of home. I decided on one Friday night to dedicate a whole weekend to clear any junk that I didn't need, to make room for things that are actually worth having. Also, to revamp a cluttered room. I'm finding myself spending a copious amount of time reading and writing on my computer and iPad. What better way to do this than to dedicate a room solely for that purpose. But more importantly (I guess), it was a good room to study in. I head back to university soon and you know how the saying goes... something about a clear space reflecting a clear and focused mind - and here's hoping this clarity bodes well for my academic results. Haha. 

During past clean-ups, I had only ever cleared small sections of the room (usually at the request of the parentals), but never the whole space at one time. So I decided to sort my belongings into 3 piles:
  1. Things I need to keep (and specifically defining the word "need" to 'serving a legitimate purpose in my room');
  2. Things I can absolutely be rid of; and
  3. Things I have no idea what to do with and will sort out next weekend.
It was a burdensome task, but somewhat interesting at the same time. I came across an old passport, textbooks and notes from high school. But amongst all of the usual clutter one might find in a home, the most curious things I came across were letters from old friends that I've lost touch with, and old photographs of myself when I was 5 years old.

Cleaning out a space can be a nostalgic task, as I found out. I'm positive that I spent more time looking over my belongings than packing them in boxes. It can be difficult parting with things that have had an impact at some point in your life, but over time and in the grand scheme of things, some become useless and insignificant. They need to go. You need to pave way for new, exciting events and memories and to do so efficiently is to bundle the old, useless ones in a plastic bag with industrial-strength masking tape. And don't be too worried if a significant object is accidentally thrown out. The most important memories always have a way of sticking around - regardless of the presence of photos, letters or trinkets. 

So I threw away the notes from old friends I don't keep in touch with, framed some of the photos of me at 5 years of age and filed or got rid of the rest. To my surprise, the "Things I can be absolutely be rid of" pile, seemed to accumulate the most amount of junk. Needless to say, the spare room now says "Welcome, come in." rather than, "Enter at your own risk of hard objects falling onto you."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Take It All" - An Emotional Plea for Mercy

I spent the better part of one night watching and listening to Adele perform her songs as part of the iTunes Festival in London. She sang to a packed auditorium to the point where I'm sure many people were involuntary squeezed up against one another. I don't think I've ever seen so many people in such an intimate musical setting before. Nevertheless, the crowd responded warmly and listened to the soul that is Adele.

I admitted I was a sucker for joyous love songs, but I also have a weak spot for incredibly depressing ones! This song is devastatingly beautiful, heartbreaking and depressing, and thus, my favourite song of hers to date. (Even more so than Someone Like You! Although, that song does come in at a close second...) Yes, it does have its fair share of stubborness and immaturity. The selfishness is quite clear. Adele cries out 'What about me? Look at what you're doing to me'. But the heavy attachment she gives to the song is hard to ignore and overrides any flaws. It really encapsulates heartbreak at its worst - the egocentric, self-absorbed beings we become when we're hurt. And the more I listen to her, I can't help but listen to the truth she brings with every word sung and as a result, sympathise with - and somewhat pity - her loss.

I jokingly posted on my Twitter account the following: "What is it about Adele's songs that makes you never want to get out of bed, ever again?". One of my male friends replied with: "It's the soul in her voice." And I think he hit the nail right on the head.*  

What is the definition of "soul"? In musical terms, it is a style/genre which could be considered as a softer, stripped down version of 'RnB'. The song does reflect this; the musical components are quite simple. The chords used aren't complicated and there's only one tempo/rhythm used throughout it.

But in everyday terms... the soul - what's inside all of us in one form or another - is a complex vacuum of emotions - emotions we love, emotions we tolerate and emotions we wish we will never have to endure a second time around. And putting aside the technical aspects of music, maybe that's what true soul is in the musical world - raw emotion sung from the heart.

From the powerful beginning of "Didn't I give it all?", the bargaining of "I will change if I must.", 'Take It All' is my favourite song on her album. It's the begging, the pleading, the hurt and the anger all compressed into a 3 minute tune.

*It's good to know that Adele does not only reach out to the female populace, but also taps into our men's 'hidden' emotions too.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Time For High Tea

Source of picture: onelittlewhitecloud

This bitterly cold Sunday afternoon, saw me decked head to toe in an over-sized white coat, black stockings, brown boots and a cream-coloured scarf. The main question going through my mind... dressing for comfort or style? Luckily, I encompassed both into my wardrobe equation, shivered my way outside and onto the streets of Fremantle. But satorialist expeditions aside, a group of 5 girls enjoying mini sandwiches, cake and various herbal teas is one of the most satisfying things I have come across - otherwise known as 'high tea'.

I made sure I paced my eating habits at lunch so as to have room to devour as much as $18 worth of food would let me. Surprisingly, I ended up having a whole plate/tray to myself because we were one person short to share the delicacies all evenly. I need to stress that I did not plan that. I just happened to end up with a 3 tiered stand... and contrary to popular belief, I did not eat all of it. I became too full.

Scones, jam, whipped cream (my favourite), cucumber sandwiches and creme brulee. How quintessentially... British. Haha. Throw in a good book and I could see myself having high tea everyday in a cute cafe in London.

Here's hoping...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Source of picture: patricia elle
Does it break my heart? Of course, every moment of every day, into more pieces than my heart was made of. I never thought of myself as quiet, much less silent. I never thought about things at all. Everything changed. The distance that wedged itself between me and my happiness wasn’t the world. It wasn’t the bombs and burning buildings. It was me, my thinking, the cancer of never letting go. Is ignorance bliss? I don’t know, but it’s painful to think, and tell me, what did thinking ever do for me? To what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think. I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.
I always take a cautious approach of reading books about post 9/11. And hence, why I don't read that many. But I can't shy away from the point of view of a 9-year-old (who expresses himself in a way a 30 year old, Jewish man living in New York might...). It reminded me a little bit of Perks of Being a Wallflower- with the similar writings of the young, naive and innocent viewpoints of a young boy. I also couldn't shy away from the setting of New York; I could read books about New York all day! (Yes, that was a massive hint that I want someone to take me to New York.) I expected the story to discuss blame and anger for the towers falling or the motivation behind the attacks. But the premise of the story was quite simple - a son looking for answers to understand his father's death.

Losing something or someone you love is always a difficult thing one could ever endure. And an ever harder thing is how to come to terms with this loss. The book crosses over several character's lives that parallel the events of 9/11 and it was slightly disheartening to acknowledge how some people chose to deal with such adversity.

However, in all truthfulness, I'm not sure how I felt after reading this book. Sometimes, I felt Foer's point did not come across clearly and at others, I'd completely misinterpreted the meaning behind some of the events taking place. But if you need a cute fix of a curious 9 year old finding answers, then by all means, pick this one up.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hitched and On The Run

Source of picture: weheartit
"We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice - that is, until we have stopped saying 'It got lost', and say, 'I lost it.'" - Sidney J. Harris
Over the weekend, I attended my friend's engagement party. The two of them have known each other for years as good friends but only 'became an item' last year. He proposed to her on a very romantic and significant venue. She said yes, she chose the ring (a wise move on her part) and they are heading off to London together to live for a year happily ever after. The party itself was full of chatter, light music, yummy cake and well wishes for the soon-to-be-married couple. Overall, a fantastic evening.

This was the first engagement party I had been to so I had to consciously remind myself  that it was not a birthday party and to burst out a rendition of "Happy Birthday" when the fiancees were making 'Thank You' speeches, would be highly inappropriate and embarrassing. Even though it was like any other party where one mingles with guests, sips champagne and hovers over the finger foods (okay, the last one is just for me), I couldn't help but acknowledge one significant aspect of the evening the most- not just for the happy couple but also for friends and those guests who were of similar ages to us.

This party was just another reminder that adulthood had snuck up upon us, faster than you can say "I do". For me, the past couple of years have been a fast blur of significant events - 21st birthday celebrations, becoming engaged, getting married, graduating from university, starting full-time jobs, moving out of home and living overseas. This is the beginning of a time that grounds itself on independence, commitment, responsibility... and great risks - an unfamiliar territory for most young adults. No more reliance can be placed on our parents (or anyone else for that matter) to oversee our actions. We are responsible for the decisions we make and, I hope, we are smart enough to make the correct ones, or at the very least, take the appropriate actions to rectify those that aren't.

We are adults - a daunting and uncertain position in life. But, nonetheless, a position that we must embrace. Very quickly.