Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Bell Jar

"If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days."
I've found the workings of a mad woman an interesting read. Probably because I am one myself. Haha. Sylvia Plath's slow descent into madness, which then translated across into her writings (notably the semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar) gained her a cult following and produced one of the most defining classic pieces of literature to date.

Her life fascinates me. Of course, this is the woman who committed suicide by famously sticking her head in an oven. Her work was and still is hailed as a major work of feminist fiction, tackling sensitive issues such as 'sexism, materialism, and complacency of American society'. The feminist movement, fascination with death, and mental illness were at that time contemporary preoccupations. But The Bell Jar made its impact in an oddly different manner. It was such a personal look at a young woman's struggle with suicidal depression - very much a reflection of the author's life.

A piece of confessional literature is, for me, extremely hard to come across. I tend to shy away from emotionally heavy issues such as depression. I fear that reading too much of it will rub off on me in a bad way. Still, having read Plath's one and only novel made me realise why the book is categorised under 'Classics' in bookstores and how much her works have contributed to feminism over the years. A bizarre read but necessary to understand the mind of depression.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In The Meantime, Forget Yourself

Picture found on: exzackt
"Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself." - Henry Miller
As we are etching ever closer towards the end of 2011, it's best to spend our holidays and free time enjoying things that we love and surrounding ourselves with those whom we love. 

My last set of exams have ended, which means I have time to focus on things that I find extremely enjoyable ala superficial crap - catching up on good TV shows, updating my knowledge on fashion via magazines, getting around to downloading new songs onto my iPod (and possibly spending hours playing Angry Birds on my iPad). Haha. Of course, I have no intention of spending the majority of the time sitting on the couch. I need to spend my holidays outside my natural habitation. I'm heading to Phuket for a mini holiday during New Years. And what does every girl want to do before going to a tropical paradise? Apart from shopping for holiday beach clothes, I have to summon the motivation to get my keg belly back to the gym and tone up. Flat washboard abs, please! Who knows what kinds of delicious Thai platters I'll be filling my body with.  But, as lame as some may find it, I am looking forward to reading. In fact, I've lined up 10 books to see me through the coming summer months before semester starts again. I may even purchase more (a goal of mine is to read all of the books that have been awarded the 'Man Booker Prize for Literary Fiction'). I am already picturing myself reading on the pristine Karon Beach sand overlooking the Andaman Sea. Bliss. 

In the meantime, I will forget myself. I'll forget the annoying trait of paranoia I've developed when things don't go smoothly. Forget what others think and see of me. In a nutshell, to rid the selfishness in me for a while. My time will be much better spent immersing myself in other things, other cultures, new people, new ideas. Yes, this definitely sounds like a great way to start my holidays.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Year of 22

Picture found on: observando.net
"Don’t wish me happiness. I don’t expect to be happy all the time… It’s gotten beyond that somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humour. I will need them all." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Today I officially turn 22 years of age. A decent amount of time to be spent on this Earth, but painfully embarrassing to admit that I haven't accumulated an amount of knowledge over the years to show for it. Today wasn't particularly noteworthy, unfortunately. My mum and I went shopping, however I didn't end up buying anything (shock!); Lunch at a Chinese restaurant wasn't as good as I expected; and I spent the afternoon reviewing my exam notes(!). Pitiful behaviour, I admit. But I digress. I didn't particularly organise anything for celebrations, but having exams tends to limit the kinds of festivities one can throw during this period. However, I did have time to reflect on how my life could be better spent on letting go of unwanted memories and relationships. So I have compiled some short thoughts on what has enlightened me this year.
  1. Take risks. The courageous are successful for a reason.
  2. Save up and travel more. It truly broadens the mind.
  3. Money worked for is valuable than money given for free (although it doesn't hurt...). 
  4. Letting go is harder than people on TV/books/quotes make it out to be. 
  5. Yoga is the new black... leggings. 
  6. Change is good. Change is important.
  7. Leaving things to fate is frightening, but excitement doesn't come to those who plan meticulously. 
  8. Defeat isn't always the most cheer-inducing event one can go through, but it's not the worst. 
  9. The best way to appreciate something is to be without it for awhile. 
  10. One can't start the next chapter of life if one keeps re-reading the last. 
  11. Food is comforting. And dangerous if taken carelessly. Use with caution. 
  12. Sad thoughts can creep up at unsuspecting moments. Don't fight it. It'll pass.
  13. Music is the cure to most things. The rest can be taken care by chocolate. 
  14. Reading literary fiction does wonders to our soul. 
  15. People can never be anything but themselves. Don't expect too much.
  16. Hard work is always rewarded... even if takes more time than expected to be recognised. 
  17. Comparing one's life to another is like comparing apples to oranges. I must keep in mind that I didn't have the same opportunities as those I envy.
  18. The ability to understand one another is a skill worth cultivating.  
  19. Like attracts like. 
  20. Happiness is unattainable if one continues to search for it in the wrong places. 
  21. Life's a bitch, and then you kick its ass. 
  22. Re-evaluating it starts here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Be Absorbent

Picture found on: hist0rique
"Become like a sheet of blotting paper and soak it all in. Later on you can figure out what to keep and what to unload." - Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Murakami has struck a chord within me with his wonderful words. Again. (Also reminding me that I have to buy another packet of facial blotting tissues... I have skin oilier than a fish and chip shop.) But vanity aside, one of the most important aspects that a person can hold is the ability to transition ever so seamlessly into an unfamiliar territory - that is, into the next chapter of life, whatever that may be.

The biggest challenges are usually faced with closed minds. I am to start planning a grand travel adventure at the end of my studies. And if there is anything that can be learnt from watching 10 seasons of 'The Amazing Race' is that travel can never be fully enjoyed with a closed mind. In fact, it acts as a hindrance. The winners (with notable exceptions) always seem to exude an air of happiness amongst them, due to the sheer reasons of embracing the physical and mental stresses along their journeys.

I am looking forward to the next chapters of my life - graduation, adventures, working (okay, maybe not so much the last one). No doubt, all extremely nerve-wracking experiences, as I'm sure many of these things are. But in Murakami's words, I must keep the following in mind: soak up all your experiences, whether they are amazingly noteworthy or terribly confronting. Embrace all with open arms. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Year In New York

A Year in New York from Andrew Clancy on Vimeo.

In a desperate bid to curb my boredom during study, I've sought out another great video on Vimeo. This time involving a guy, a camcorder, and 365 days of living in one of the best cities in the world. Enjoy the beauty!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Art of Travel

Source of picture: the lightlover
"If we find poetry in the service station and the motel, if we are drawn to the airport or the train carriage, it is perhaps because, despite their architectural compromises and discomforts, despite their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world."
It has been a while since I've posted a book review (all complaints can be directed to my university). I am fond of travel as much as the next travel agent, so it was plausible for me to begin reading this book by Alain De Botton (well known for one of his novels making a guest appearance in the movie, '500 Days of Summer').

Few things in our life bring about an immediate sense of happiness. Luckily, travel is one of the few (albeit sometimes expensive) outlets for us to seek out this feeling. In his book, Alain attempts to outline the reasons why we travel, as well as subtly offering ways in which we can improve our moods while travelling, and deepen our value of our voyages. Written in a poetic manner (a common occurrence with the books I read), he explores a range of reasons why we travel where we do - from the obvious means of curiosity and the exotic, to the niche areas of art, beauty and the sublime.

The only downside I found when reading his essay was its Euro-centric focus on travel. I would have liked to see him explore countries outside the European continents, to exotic places where we might find ourselves extremely our of our comfort zones. Nonetheless, his style of writing is academically brilliant; one of the best essayist I've come across yet, and a definite must for fans of 'philosophical thoughts on life'.