When my best friend and I were eight years old, we decided to go stargazing. We prepared for weeks. From begging her parents to let us go on the terrace to begging my parents for a sleepover, we thought of it all. That night, we had everything ready: snacks, a large rug, and a book on stars that we’d borrowed from the library. The only problem? The sky was overcast.
But nothing could have stopped us. So, we unrolled the mat, opened the box of snacks, and tried to find constellations in the cloudy sky. We may not have been able to see stars that night, but I could see something brighter.
What’s the difference between the stars in the sky and your best friend’s smile?
At that point, I barely knew anything about stars; I just knew that they would always be there. Whether there were clouds in the sky or the Sun was shining, whether I saw them or not.
I moved out of our apartment a few months after that. And now, ten years later, she’s in college in another country. We may be looking at different constellations, but I’m sure that she’s thinking of me and I’m thinking of her. And that’s all that matters.
What’s the difference between the stars in the sky and the ones in my mind?
My mind gets filled with clouds all the time. I find it hard to step out onto the terrace and look at the constellations of people I love. I find it hard to trust the world and let go. But through the years, I’ve figured out that even though the world only turns in one direction, it’s always the right one.
I don’t know a lot of things — what my friendships will look like in four years, what college I’ll go to, or whether my veins are blue or green. I can find the answer to the third question by taking a quick online quiz, and the second by taking a few entrance exams. Finding the answer to the first one, however, is a lot trickier, and there’s no way to know it for sure. But what I do know is that I love my friends and I want them to be a part of my life forever. For now, that’s enough.
What’s the difference between the stars in the sky and hoping for a predictable life?
A life without surprises isn’t beautiful or natural. Pushing against nature never works; believe me, I’ve tried so hard. Pretending that everything is going to stay the same doesn’t stop things from changing. Hiding things from the people you love only hurts them. Pushing your feelings down only makes them erupt.
I feel different things in different places. Anger makes my hands shake. Sadness settles in the pit of my stomach. Fear runs in haphazard circles around my head. But nostalgia wraps its arms around my chest and hugs me until my heart aches.
What’s the difference between the stars in the sky and the twinkling fairy lights at midnight?
The stars have always been there. When I lost two of my kittens and felt like my heart was irreparably shattered. When I stayed up alone all night to work on a school project. When I talked to my friends for eight hours one night and realised that life can be incredible and wonderful. The stars listen to my hopes, dreams, and conversations.
I look at the night sky and think of Cafe Terrace at Night, one of my favourite paintings that reminds me of two of my favourite people. I think of unadulterated happiness; a life that I’ll spend with the people that I love. When I go to my terrace, I don’t look down and think of jumping; I look up at the stars and think of what’s to come.
What’s the difference between the stars in the sky and the tears in my eyes?
When stars fall, wishes are made. I always wish for things to stay the same, but sometimes letting go is the better option. Leaving doesn’t always imply finding a way back. This is the last article that I will write for this column, and I know I’m never returning. Everything is changing and I can’t push against nature any longer.
Right now, all I can see are clouds, but I’m trusting the universe and letting go.
What’s the difference between the stars in the sky and saying goodbye?
I love furniture shops and the way furniture pieces have been arranged to create their own little rooms. I love seeing other people’s representation of what a home looks like. And I love how when people shop for furniture, they’re essentially looking at someone’s idea of a home and picking pieces of that to fit into the mosaic that will be their new home.
I feel like furniture shopping accompanies a lot of fresh starts, like shifting houses or rooms, or something bigger, like moving out. And that’s why I rarely see people shopping for furniture alone, because fresh starts are one of the most terrifying things in the world. I see siblings fight over which of the race-car beds is better. I see future roommates argue over which rug would look better in their hostel room. I see grandparents carefully testing out the rocking chairs to see which one is most comfortable.
And there’s nothing scarier than starting something all alone. This is why there’s something special about New Year’s Day and resolutions: it reminds you that you’re not going through this alone. It’s like a collective fresh start for everyone on the planet.
This year holds a lot of fresh starts for me, and I expect to walk into furniture stores multiple times in the near future, pretending like each little home is my own. I know that I’ll probably be sitting on the colourful sofa set, playing board games with my overly-competitive family. Or jumping on the beds with my brother, trying to see who can go the highest without breaking anything. Perhaps even sprawled on bean bags and hammocks, telling my friends about my day.
No matter what piece of furniture I go to, or which furniture shop I’m in, whenever I visualise home, it’s always the people who come to mind first. The colour of the sofa or the patterns on it don’t matter to me if I have no one who’ll sit on it and talk to me.
I like to see fresh starts, not just as they are, but also as what they could be. Rugs that friends sit on to have a midnight feast of spicy noodles, or to play a game of truth or dare. Chairs whose wooden legs will inevitably get scratched by cats. A shelf that will sag with the weight of photo frames and trinkets.
I see every new start haunted by the ghosts of future memories. Though ghosts usually terrify me, I find that when I’m close to the people I love, I’m not scared at all.
I love notebooks of all kinds. Whether they’re sparkly and covered with doodles, or the regular plain ones.
There’s something about a notebook that feels like a fresh start. The immense potential that it carries in its crisp pages, just waiting to be filled, makes me feel like I can do absolutely anything with it. The only problem here - I don’t actually use it for anything.
I’ve been collecting pretty notebooks for as long as I can remember. But every time I wrote in those notebooks, I seemed to ruin its aura of pristine perfection. No matter how hard I tried, something would always go wrong: I’d either make a spelling mistake, or smudge ink on the page.
Because nothing is more beautiful than a crisp empty notebook. But nothing is more useless than an empty notebook that will never be filled.
My drawers are littered with gorgeous notebooks that are half-filled with clunky articles, sketches that are out of proportion, and ideas that were discarded because they were not “good enough” even before they were fully formulated.
This mentality has led to me either not doing anything at all, or feeling a crippling fear that makes me procrastinate the easiest of tasks. I give up on things the second they become even a little difficult instead of trying harder to accomplish them.
To combat the pressure of getting things perfect, I first do something imperfectly on purpose. Whether it’s a doodle scrawled at the top of the page, or ridiculous ideas that would never work, these little imperfections lift the burden of achieving the unattainable pristine perfection off my shoulders and let me have fun. That way, I feel a lot better about myself and get more done.
I write down my chaotic to-do lists in a fuzzy notebook that looks like a dog. Among the graceful manikins in my sketchbook pages, you’ll find the occasional fluffy bird nestled in the corner. My organic chemistry notes are filled with sketches of little grumpy cats frowning at conversion reactions.
Like I said earlier, I love notebooks of all kinds. Whether they’re sparkly and covered with doodles, or the regular plain ones. But my favourite kind of notebook is one whose pages are filled.
When it comes to interior design, I love crazy patterns and bright colours layered on top of each other. I love seeing hodgepodges of trinkets and knick-knacks on display. And I love mobiles, especially ones of different shapes and sizes, like in the third photo. They fill up space like nothing else does.
Yes, these rooms are colourful and eclectic, but what I like most about them is that they’re chaotic. No one who’s read this column will be surprised to know that I’m fond of chaos. And I love it because it takes up space and demands that people notice it.
On the other hand, I have a lot of trouble opening up to people. I find it hard to be myself, with all my clashing colours and ridiculous patterns. My room is the only place where I feel true to who I am.
I had covered my room’s walls with a mess of colourful papers, stickers, and photos of the people I love. But it still felt like something was missing. I was decorating a three-dimensional space with two-dimensional things.
Most of the rooms above use plants to fill up the space, but plants can get messy and I knew I wouldn’t remember to water them regularly. So, I decided to use the third photo as inspiration and DIY my own mobile.
After trying (and failing) to twist wire into aesthetically pleasing shapes, I turned to chart paper instead. I painted it, cut it into triangles, and strung it up in my room. The painting is a little sloppy and I tied the mobile so low that the triangles brush across my face every time I walk past them. And I love it.
I’ve spilt my soul on the walls, ceiling, and floor of my room in the hopes that the room will absorb at least a few drops of it and remind people of me when I leave. That’s why my room door is always closed when I’m inside – because it’s easier to let people love me from a distance.
It’s easier to leave my door open after the room isn’t mine anymore. After I’ve packed everything up and left only a few scraps of my soul lingering in the faded triangles swinging gently with the wind.
But I’m alive right now, and I want to take up space. I want to see people’s reactions to the quotes on my wall and the things that I’ve written on my photos. I want people to see my bright colours and chaotic patterns.
Chaos is never purely good - that’s why it intrigues me. I love how vastly different it looks when you look at it from afar and when you step closer. I love studying its various elements. Most of all, I love how everything in it just unapologetically takes up space.
There are books piling up on my table, filled with silly little scribbles and doodles. The walls of my room are covered with cringey quotes from my favourite musicals. There are triangles hanging from the ceiling, swaying in the breeze, waiting to brush against your face. My room isn’t presentable or palatable. It’s chaotic and messy.
But the door is open and I’d love to give you a tour.
When I have a lot to do, I get really overwhelmed and freeze. Which means I do nothing at all. I’ve heard that looking at the big picture helps me get my priorities straight, but it just makes me feel like I’m stuck inside an hourglass.
All I can do is see the sand fall, grain by grain, on the ground in front of me. I don’t know how much more sand is yet to come, which makes what’s there all the more precious.
Every time I make a to-do list, I find it ridiculously difficult to arrange it in priority order, because every task is important. I want to do everything, and I want to do everything perfectly. After all, there is a lot of time, so that should be completely possible.
I want to build sandcastles. I want to create sand angels. I want to use the sand to craft exquisite and delicate glassware. I want to just look at the sand fall and enjoy its beauty.
What usually helps me complete tasks is zooming in and not out. Taking things one day at a time, one task at a time, really helps me to just do things rather than focusing on how many things I have to do.
I walk around the hourglass, feet sinking in the soft sand, as I search for the best spot to build a sandcastle.
However, this usually leads to me spending a ridiculous amount of time on an extremely simple task, just to avoid doing the more complicated ones.
I find the perfect spot. There is a lot more sand under my feet now than there was before I embarked on this search, but it is worth it. I think.
The key elements here are balance and not overthinking it, two things I am terrible at. But unfortunately, being bad at something is not a reason to stop doing it; on the contrary, it’s all the more reason to do it, especially if it’s something as important as this.
I stare at the sand. It has a yellowish tinge to it. The tiny dunes that form fascinate me. They look like ripples frozen in time.
Even beating myself up for making the “wrong” choice and wasting time is a way for me to avoid focusing on an important task. I need to accept that the choices I’ve made are the choices I’ve made and move on. Hyperfocusing on my mistakes isn’t at all productive, and it saps all of my energy. Energy I can use in a much better way.
It’s so easy for me to feel overwhelmed that I forget how lovely the hourglass actually is. I’m not trapped at all. There is beautiful sand under my feet, a glass dome arching over my head, and the soft sound of sand falling around me.
Only thinking about the fact that I’m obligated to do certain things makes me forget that I enjoy doing most of them. Remembering and focusing on that makes doing them a lot easier. It brings me this sense of peace that I never realised I was chasing.
I’m going to start on that sandcastle now.
On a beautiful sunny day, the curtains in my room are almost always closed. The only time I make sure to open them is when there’s a thunderstorm outside.
My habit of blocking out things that make me feel better certainly doesn’t stop at curtains. I always need to be hiding at least three things from everyone I know. Those things range from parts of my life to my hobbies and interests; even certain activities that would be frowned upon for legal reasons.
It’s easy for me to sit alone in my dark room, staring into the void, but that actively hurts me and my ability to interact with the world. It clouds my perception of it and warps it into something a lot crueller than it actually is. Because the world is not a rotten place full of horrible people who don’t care about me. It’s a beautiful place and I’m surrounded by people who do care.
When I don’t tell people things, I feel like I “protect” them from my problems so that they don’t affect them. What I fail to realise is that the people who love me want to know about my life and help me in whatever way that they can. Not telling them about myself and then lamenting that they don’t understand me is like keeping plants in a dark room with blackout curtains and then complaining when they wilt — completely pointless and easily avoidable.
While being overly cynical and closed off may seem to be a “cooler” option, it actually makes me an idiot with massive trust issues who can’t form basic healthy human relationships. Opening up to people and trying to make my life a place in which I can be happy is entirely my responsibility.
This isn’t something that can be fixed in a day or a week, it’s a daily effort to put myself out there and express my emotions in a way that’s both true and not hurtful. It’s not easy and it’s honestly not always fulfilling; but I think it’s necessary.
While I may be scared of the dark, I’m also terrified of the light because it makes me feel a lot more vulnerable. The clutter in my room (and in my head) can easily be ignored when it’s just a pile in the dark.
But light has this uncanny ability to make seemingly huge problems look fixable. And I’m scared to put in the effort and fix them out of the fear that I’ll end up making it worse - but I’ve now realised that the decision to do nothing is a thousand times worse than doing something wrong.
Shutting the curtains doesn’t make the sun shine less brightly, it just makes it harder for me to enjoy its light. Cutting myself off from the people around me doesn’t make their love for me disappear, it just makes it difficult for me to feel and understand it.
I think I’ll leave my curtains open today.
Playgrounds are the liminal spaces connecting the person I was to the person I am right now. Like most liminal spaces, a routine side effect of being in playgrounds, or even thinking about them, is having an existential crisis. And the best (and least destructive) way for me to process liminality is to just walk through it.
Speaking of places where it’s difficult to walk, the wobbly bridge at the centre of the playground was where all of us gathered first. Standing up there, on the highest point of the playground, we felt like the world (or at least, a playground with fifteen boisterous children) was our kingdom and we would rule forever. Our reign lasted for about two seconds, and then we’d have to get down and give the other children a turn on the bridge.
The humiliation of being driven away from our throne was softened by the fact that we could ride the slides on the way down. I can’t count the number of times I’ve skinned my elbows while sliding down an extremely slippery slide. No amount of time on any roller coaster in the world could ever compare to those fleeting few seconds on a slide where I felt like the fastest creature alive.
The only other thing that has managed to make my heart beat as fast is a merry-go-round. The thrill of flinging yourself off of a merry-go-round moving at top speed makes you feel invincible and unbreakable, even with a bleeding wound and a few broken bones. Maybe it was the thrill of doing something absurdly dangerous with equipment designed for children, or maybe it’s the fact that I don’t perceive time in the same way anymore, but those moments feel different to me in a way that I can’t describe.
Swings have always been my favourite part of the playground. My friends and I would try to see who could swing the highest. With wind in our hair, stars in our eyes and a smile on our lips, we were angels who had just found their wings. Except instead of flying while a holy choir sang in the background, we threw ourselves off the swings as our parents screamed at us in the background.
The sandpit was ultimately where we all ended up when the stars came out. We sat there and created lumpy “sandcastles” while talking about everything and nothing at all - it’s easier for me to talk to people when my hands are busy. Those hours spent sitting in the playground felt like aeons and seconds all at once. No unit of time would be able to measure them. They were wrapped in a kind of magic that could only be accessed by twelve-year-old girls on summer nights.
While every other piece of playground equipment showed me how to make the most of every second of life by doing as many crazy and destructive things in as little time as possible, the sandpit taught me how to stretch a second into infinity. It gave me a place to collect my thoughts and connect with the people closest to me in a more honest and open way.
Maybe I’m overthinking this. I was just a normal child in a normal playground. Maybe the playground equipment was just there for us to play with, it wasn’t meant to teach us anything. Maybe I should just move on and think about things that are more important, like my upcoming exams or my portfolio for college.
But I think I’ll play in the sand for five more minutes.
One of my favourite things in my room is a butterfly-shaped rug that I got a year ago.
The rug reminds me of my childhood (normal thing for a seventeen year old to say) even though I’m scared of butterflies and the only rug I had when I was younger was a soft silvery-white one that I ruined by spilling ice cream on it. But its bright colours and whimsical shape remind me of a time when I was a lot more carefree.
I have never been able to feel things the “right” way. I swing between being overwhelmed and apathetic. I either feel ecstatic or devastated, there is no in-between. People have always told me to be more calm and grounded, and not let small things alter my mood to such a great extent. Not knowing exactly how to do this, I copied the main characters in every other coming-of-age movie and lay on the floor whenever I felt overwhelmed.
And, as crazy as it sounds, that technique helped. Lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling while I ran my fingers through the rug and thoughts ran through my head, did help me sort through what I was feeling. I don’t know if it was the feeling of cold tile below my back or the repetitive pattern of bricks on my ceiling, but I was somehow able to think more clearly when I was lying on the floor. My thoughts felt more organised.
Thinking about things that had happened, processing my emotions, and sorting out what I felt helped me feel less overwhelmed. I think it’s important to think about the things that happen to me while they’re going on. Not acknowledging the spilt butterscotch ice cream on a rug doesn’t make the situation better, it just attracts ants. And blocking thoughts out may feel good in the moment, but letting them just sit there only makes them fester.
Like certain sticky mats, the thoughts in the darkest corners of our brains need to be brought into the light and scrubbed with soap and common sense. Sorting through my thoughts doesn’t solve all my problems, but it does help me make better decisions in the future. Decisions that wouldn’t cause an ant infestation.
My head isn’t always the nicest place to be. (Neither was my room after the incident.) But it is the place where I spend the most time. I can either decide to make it a better place or suffer unnecessarily. But my thoughts aren’t going to become wonderful overnight, I have to put in the work and make them nicer.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I try to break things down as much as possible. What am I feeling right now? Rinse that corner of the rug. Is it more on the positive or negative side? Add a bit of soap and scrub. What can I do to get to a more neutral state of mind right now? Squeeze out the water. Is thinking about this going to make me feel better right now or should I distract myself for a little while? Carry the rug to the balcony and leave it in the sun to dry.
While I can’t change what I did to the beautiful silvery-white rug, I can change how I respond to situations now. I don’t always do the best thing, but I am getting better at not making things a bigger mess than they are.
So I am proud to say that while I have spilled mango juice, chocolate ganache, cream cheese frosting, sugar syrup, and mixed fruit jam on my new butterfly rug, the ant infestation this time is not my fault.
Stickers have always been my favourite stationery item. For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with collecting as many of them as I could.
Every sheet of stickers that I own reminds me of certain memories. Baby-themed blue and pink stickers remind me of the week that my brother was born. Garden themed pastel stickers bring back memories of evenings I spent scrapbooking with some of my closest friends. Looking at colourful animal stickers reminds me of the golden summer afternoons that I spent at summer camp when I was ten years old, surrounded by a sea of art supplies.
In spite of being one of my favourite things in the world, a part of me is absolutely terrified of stickers. The amount of love I have for stickers makes me feel like I have a responsibility to use them perfectly. I can’t accidentally crease them or stick them in the “wrong” place, like two centimetres to the left of the centre of the page instead of the centre of the page. If I do, I feel like I’ve let them (and myself) down.
Through my many interactions with stickers, I have learnt that there is no perfect way to use a sticker. I have also learnt that love, responsibility, and trust are a package deal. Sometimes, you just have to trust that you deserve the responsibility of sticking the stickers that you love wherever feels right to you at that moment.
But you’re going to be wrong. Many times. You’ll end up with creased and faded bird stickers on your bookshelf that can never truly be scrubbed away. You’ll have to make your peace with an embarrassing sticker of your ex-favourite Disney princess that you stuck on your mirror when you were five years old because no matter how hard you try, the sticker just won’t come off. You’ll have to forgive yourself for wasting a beautiful ibis sticker on a collage instead of saving it for your science project.
I still think it’s easier to do all that than stare at a drawer of unused stickers and feel like the biggest coward in the world.
Because even though loving something comes with the responsibility of being courageous enough to express that love, it’s also important to trust that people are doing the best they can to express that love in their current situation. Everyone loves and expresses love in their own unique way. The people who truly care about us try to help us express that love in the best way that we can.
I can’t promise that I’ll suddenly start using stickers without spending twenty minutes overthinking every decision that leads up to that moment. But I can try to look in the drawer filled with stickers and not feel as guilty. Navigating the responsibility that comes with love is by no means an easy task, but it’s definitely one that makes life a million times more fulfilling.
I’m giving myself a smiley-face sticker for effort.
Just to clarify, when I say “sun flares”, I mean the photographic phenomenon and not the huge explosions on the Sun. While this may seem out of character, I assure you that I am still the flaring pyromaniac you all know and love.
I love sun flares because they remind me of sunshine and the kind of unadulterated happiness that can only be felt on a summer afternoon when you have no responsibilities. The kind of happiness I took for granted because I thought that I’d feel it again a thousand times.
Photos like this always make me think of summer and the times that I spent doing nothing but existing. Moments that felt suspended in the golden amber of a summer montage wherein everyone is happy and everything is okay. Even now, just thinking of those moments fills me with an inexplicable and overwhelming feeling that’s neither negative nor positive, but an amalgamation of every feeling I have ever felt.
This feeling is one that I’ve always associated with teenagerhood and coming-of-age movies. It reminds me that there are so many wonderful experiences that I have in store, but it also fills me with the fear that I won’t be able to experience them in the “right” way. These moments, unlike the sun, are fleeting, and don’t give you a thousand chances to capture them in a way that seems perfect to you.
I always imagined that while I was a teenager, growing up would feel like a movie. I didn't think that everything would be sunshine and rainbows all the time, but I did think that my life would always be interesting in a palatable way. I really don’t think that a spoiler alert is required when I say that my experience with growing up has been nothing like this.
I hate that I am messy in a way that can’t be romanticised. And believe me, I have tried to romanticise my life. Multiple times. I’ve even tried to recreate certain typical scenes from movies in the hopes that everything would magically fall into place for me like how they did for the main characters in those movies.
But lying down on my bed with my head hanging off the mattress and music playing in the background at 2 am only seemed cool until I was the one in the situation. Then, all I noticed was the pounding of blood in my head, the pins and needles in my arms, and how alone I felt. I’m still not sure if the headache after was caused by lying down like that or sleep deprivation.
Pretending like my life is a movie doesn’t make me happy, it just makes me slightly crazy in a self-destructive way. And the more that I think about it, the more I realise that I don’t want my life to be exactly like a movie. Because a movie only tells a part of someone’s story.
I don’t want the hours spent with my friends to be reduced to a five minute scene; I want to remember every single inside joke, ridiculous story, and crazy metaphor that we come up with, whether my “audience” likes it or not. If my life truly were a movie shot and edited for other people to watch, a lot of the moments that I cherish would be cut from the main movie.
Even my favourite photographs aren’t the ones with perfect lighting and sun flares where everyone is looking at the camera and posing. They’re the blurry ones taken at night with my friends where we’re all looking at each other and laughing.
Looking at those photos where I’m happy and laughing and just existing around the people I love the most, the same overwhelming feeling fills me up. The one that I feel when I watch teen coming-of-age movies. The strange thing is that I didn’t feel like that in the moment when it was taken because I was focusing on actually having fun rather than looking like I was having fun. The harder I try to induce this feeling, the further away I get from actually feeling it.
I’ve been searching for an emotion that is impossible for me to feel in the moment, but it’s something that I feel after living in the moment. Almost like an aftertaste that lingers in my mind long after the moment has passed. Because feelings change with time. That’s why a once happy memory can make you sad, and a once embarrassing memory can make you laugh. As time changes, so does your heart and your perception of the things that happened to you.
Sun flares can only be captured in photographs. In the moment, they feel like warmth and endless day. Similarly, the “teenager feeling” that I’ve been chasing for the past few years can only be realised through memory. In the moment, it feels like being truly alive.
The picture frames in my room only have printouts of quotes in them. I’ve always been scared of putting actual photographs in (not because I think ghosts will possess them; the ghosts in my house are very well-behaved.)
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I think that the frame it’s in is worth at least two hundred. The type of frame used generally provides a certain amount of context for the photo and helps capture the memory in a more three-dimensional way.
In my opinion, certain frames are meant for certain photos. Frames that have been decorated by messy kindergarteners hold either their class photos or photos of family vacations. Spray-painted handmade frames with stickers and glitter are meant for a group selfie with your friends from craft camp. Your mugshots would go in wooden or solid-coloured frames while pictures of the various buildings you burnt would be placed in red ones with glowing hearts.
Photos on a phone or camera can easily be swept out of view with a simple touch. However, putting photographs in frames is a courageous act. You’re showing the entire world what matters to you most, and in exactly what way. The frame, the place where you keep the photo, and its size show everyone that you do, in fact, care about certain creatures and are not a heartless witch. But apart from making you terrifyingly vulnerable, photos also drag you on a trip down memory lane.
Photos of myself in the recent past fill me up with memories of the day and time when they were taken. But photos of myself that were taken more than four years ago fill me up with memories of the person I was back then: freer, more obstinate, and happier. I inevitably ask myself the same questions — would she be proud of who I am right now? Will the person I become four years from now approve of who I am today? Where did I get those red frames and why do they glow?
This train of thought always leads to me doubting every single thing I have ever done and not trusting myself to make the right decisions. I get tangled up in thoughts that are as difficult to navigate as our legal system. Because if the person I was doesn’t like the person I am, then the person I am won’t like the person I will be. And if the person I will be doesn’t like who I am, then I don’t like the person I was. But do I like the person I was? And if I don’t, then why am I trying to make her proud?
I hate time.
After years and years of thinking and overthinking, the only conclusion I have been able to reach is this: it doesn’t matter whether the past and future versions of myself like or approve of the person I am right now. I would prefer to make mistakes and actually do things instead of doing nothing out of a fear of disappointing myself. And that red frame was probably a gift that my cousin got me years ago.
I get to choose the person I will become. And I am choosing to forgive myself. It’s not easy, but I’m really trying. I’m trying to forgive myself for the mistakes I have made and the mistakes I will make in the future. I’m also trying to trust myself to learn from these mistakes, become a better person and get rid of the red frame whose hearts have the annoying tendency to explode. The hope that every version of myself will be this kind allows me to make decisions and actually live life without questioning every step I take.
To me, living in the present doesn’t always involve throwing caution to the wind or throwing myself (or someone else) out of a plane, it also involves finding the courage to trust myself and finding photographs to replace the quotes in my picture frames.
In my opinion, sour candy is one of the most enjoyable things to eat. When I was in middle school, my friends and I used to play a game where we'd stuff as much sour candy as possible into our mouths and try to eat it with a straight face. Some of my more adventurous friends would raise the stakes and play this game during class.
I never did, because I was terrible at it. The second I put a piece of sour candy in my mouth, my face would inevitably contort itself into the spitting image of my demon cousin and I would shake my body like a wet dog drying itself off.
You could say that this shows how sensitive I am to the world around me and how I always feel things very intensely, but that's just not true. The truth is, I can't eat sour food without acting like I've been possessed by a demon.
After several humiliating experiences involving sour candy, I decided that I had to improve my sour tolerance. The obvious next step was to start drinking freshly-squeezed undiluted raw lemon juice. Unfortunately, this technique didn't work out as well as I’d hoped. It only caused my mother to worry and hide the lemons from me. Pity.
I find it fascinating how we all see the world completely differently. What my friends and I saw as a fun game with amazing candy, our teachers must have seen as an obstacle that stood in the way of them having a peaceful and well-behaved class. Similarly, whenever I look at gasoline, I think of a pleasurable hobby, but the people around me have made it very clear that they don't see eye to eye with me here.
While it may be difficult, I think that we should try and see the world through other people's eyes if we want to form meaningful connections with them. My perception of the world is largely determined by the thoughts going through my head at a particular moment. Since the people I love are almost always on my mind, I see them everywhere I look.
The colour green is one of my friends' favourite colours and looking at a sprawling meadow or plants growing through the cracks of mossy walls always reminds me of them. I can't look at a lizard crawling on a window without remembering the lizard musical that my brother and I co-wrote a year ago. When I look at solid colours, the first thing that comes to my mind is a flag-loving friend of mine.
A lot of things have a special meaning in my head because I associate them with a fond memory or a person who means a lot to me. These little inside jokes I have with the world always bring a smile to my face even when I'm having a terrible day. Looking out for the seemingly mundane things in my life that remind me of the people I love always makes me feel a little less alone and I’ve been told that it’s a better coping mechanism than setting things on fire.
On that note, I'm going to go search for some lemons (and a fire extinguisher).
Stuffed animals have always been my favourite kinds of toys. They make me feel safe and warm inside, much like a nice controlled fire (which, of course, also makes me feel warm on the outside).
The first stuffed toy I formed a bond with was a goose that had black wings. I, of course, named her Goosey because I was seven years old and that was the best name I could come up with. I remember taking her with me everywhere, because no experience could ever be complete without Goosey by my side. Whether I was reading bird books, colouring in my bird colouring book, or birdwatching in my balcony, I always had that stuffed goose tucked under my arm.
I don’t play with my stuffed toys nearly as often now and they gather dust very quickly, so they’re all bundled in a blanket and stay in the storage unit below my bed for the time being. When I decided that I was going to write about stuffed animals, I knew I had to consult Goosey again. So, I held up my mattress with one hand, and with the other, I scrambled through the assortment of items that was stored neatly under it. After a minute of searching, I found the goose I was looking for.
Looking at my Goosey filled me with an inexplicable emotion. It felt like lighting that one scented candle after years of staring at it with longing in my eyes. It felt like that moment of precious silence which accompanies driving under a flyover in the pouring rain. It felt like hugging my mother with tears in my eyes and realising that everything would be okay.
It felt like a seventeen-year-old looking at a stuffed goose at three in the morning.
I don’t know how to describe love in its true form. I can’t describe the safety and security that settled within me as I squeezed that goose. Every metaphor that comes to mind seems stupid and pretentious, because love is the only thing I have experienced so far that is neither.
I used to think that showing love was lame and weird. I was scared to be vulnerable so I decided to be detached and aloof instead. Instead of facing my fears and opening my heart, I decided to hide the fact that I loved people.
But the problem with love is that it’s hard to conceal. Much like the scorch marks and wax that a scented candle leaves when it falls flame-first onto a brand-new sofa, it’s visible no matter how hard you try to hide it. No matter how sarcastic I was, I would still lean in whenever my friends spoke because I wanted to hear everything that they had to say. No amount of me rolling my eyes would be able to conceal the way they sparkled every time one of my closest friends told me about her favourite books.
I’m not proud of the person I was then, and I’m trying to learn from the mistakes I made. I try to be more patient and kind with everyone around me. I try not to light candles near flammable furniture (keyword: try). But most importantly, I try to tell the people I love how much I love them, as much as possible, because we all need to hear it.
It is a privilege to love and to be loved. I am eternally grateful for the people (and geese) in my life. So of course I’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day, and I think you should too. Attempt to make a heart shaped cake, sing love songs at the top of your lungs, and light as many scented candles as your heart desires (because pyromania and self-love are obviously synonyms).
As for me, I’ll be doing all of the above with the co-author of this article tucked under my arm, for old times’ sake.
One of the most useless things in my room is a square cushion with illustrations of sleeping dogs on it.
I have cushions all over my house that are used on a daily basis. The soft ones on the sofa are used as makeshift pillows when guests stay for the night. The stiff ones with embroidery are used as back support. The large ones are used for pillow fights because they cause more “damage” than a lighter pillow ever could.
This cushion, on the other hand, is too small to be used as a pillow, takes up too much space to be used as a backrest and barely inflicts any pain when tossed at someone (unless it hits you in the eye; believe me, I’ve tried). Therefore, it is one of the only cushions in my house that is in good condition.
Apart from having a multitude of uses, cushions are, in my opinion, one of the most underrated décor pieces to exist. A gorgeous set of scatter cushions (also known as “throw pillows”) brightens up a room in an incredible and unique way.
Look at these gorgeous rooms. The scatter cushions add that element of homeliness that makes these rooms so appealing to me. While the wall décor and rugs also have my heart, this article is not about them. The patterned cushions are the stars of this article and they are what tie the room together. Moreover, the mixture of patterns makes the couches look all the more interesting without being too messy.
These pictures have been all that I could think about for more than two years. And the second I saw an old cushion at home, I immediately knew that it would be the cornerstone of my very own Pinterest-perfect room.
The obvious first step to achieving this was to tie-dye a white cushion cover. However, the closest thing I could find to a cushion cover was my brother’s old t-shirt. When I tried to dye it with watercolour paint, it looked less like something you’d find on Pinterest and more like something you’d find on National Geographic.
To say that this incident crushed me would be an understatement. From then on, I tried my level best to stay away from all things cushion-related. Until one day, as I was passing through a furniture store, when a certain cushion cover with illustrations of sleeping dogs on it caught my eye and the rest is history.
This cushion set the precedent for how my room would get decorated: I would scroll through Pinterest for hours, pick a project that I would fail miserably at, and finally come up with something that fit my room a lot better than the initial project ever could.
The dream catchers, wall stickers, and water-coloured sheets of paper that surround me make my room a private sanctuary. Looking at these souvenirs of my mental breakdowns make me feel safe because they act like a tether and remind me that the void does not have to blink first.
While I may not use the sleeping-dog-cushion for anything, it makes me smile every time I look at it. So, I would like to end this article by rephrasing its first sentence:
One of the most important things in my room is a square cushion with illustrations of sleeping dogs on it.
It’s that time of the year again — time to scour the internet for a planner with cute illustrations, a pastel colour palette, and a set of stickers that I’ll absolutely adore but never use. I flipped through my mostly empty planner for this year a few days ago, and saw the section at the end that is meant for storing memories. The blank pages meant to hold ticket stubs, polaroid photos, and journal entries are empty as usual but they don’t bother me as much as they used to. (That's probably because this kind of emptiness pales in comparison to that of my soul.)
Instead of talking about all the things that have changed this year (and believe me, a lot of things have changed, mostly for the better), I want to focus on the things in my life that have stayed the same. While I may not be able to explicitly state certain things as they are “criminal offences”, here is the list that my legal team has approved:
My love for lists: One thing you must know about me is that I love keeping mental lists of many things that interest me. Whether it’s my favourite kinds of food (French desserts), my favourite paintings (The Water Lily Pond, 1899 by Claude Monet), or even colours that I like (Pantone 448C, though Very Peri is very beautiful too), maintaining a list of them is something that I find extremely enjoyable. However, in spite of loving the list-making process, I find it incredibly hard to write my lists down, because I feel like some lists are better as 2 a.m. conversations than words on a post-it.
(Monet’s gorgeous painting, The Water Lily Pond)
Musical Theatre: My love for musical theatre has only become stronger this year, thanks to a school friend with a golden heart who made me listen to a certain musical over call once in early July. Late nights of spinning in three-inch heels, sobbing on the floor, and almost committing arson would have been incomplete without show-tunes playing in the background.
Cats: While I do believe that I am more of a dog person, a certain stray cat has adopted my family and allows us to feed her regularly. Her presence is something that forced me to have some semblance of a morning routine (which is slowly falling apart now that my mother feeds her in the morning). But I truly believe that my life would not be the same without her angry meows and grumpy face.
As I wrote out this list, I realised that these supposed “constants” in my life are actually a lot more dynamic than I thought. Although my love for lists has stayed the same, the items on them get reordered on a daily basis. My favourite musicals change over time and so do my favourite songs from them. And the cat has kittens now — four of them. As someone who actively despises change, this realisation shook me to my very core.
But as I think more about all the things that have changed in my life, there’s not one thing that I would rather have remain completely constant. These changes have caused me to experience things I never would have even imagined myself to be capable of, they’ve allowed me to create things that I am so incredibly proud of, and they’ve made my path cross with people whom I care about so deeply that it has caused me to rethink my definition of love (which may or may not include blood pacts).
The only thing that is constant about the items on this list is that these things have continued to be important to me throughout the course of this year in more or less the same way.
French, on the other hand, meant everything to me, but I am less visibly obsessed with it because I no longer study the subject. Even though I have tried to fill as many aspects of my life with as many French things as possible — I think my column is a great example of that — it’s just not the same. The same thing is true about some of my old friends. Our routines used to intertwine like the multiple ribbon bookmarks attached to my planner and separating us was almost as easy as untangling these ribbons (For clarification: not very).
When I moved away from these friends and when I dropped French in eleventh grade, I honestly did not know how I would be able to just go about my life without these essential elements there to hold me together and keep me sane. These seemingly tiny things had become a huge part of my life. I thought that I would fall apart like my plans for maintaining a decent planner.
I now know that these things wouldn’t last forever. Because nothing does.
I think that’s the best and absolute worst part of being alive. I have created a solar system of friendships within nine months that means so much to me. This magazine and this column mean so very much to me. And I know that, realistically, they will not last forever. But I think that obsessing about how it will end will only make it end sooner. One of my closest friends does their level best to live in the moment and be mentally present in every single situation. They’ve taught me that if the only thing we do is dream about the future we want, then we’ll be dreaming forever. And life is meant to be lived in, not dreamed about.
Something another one of my closest friends told me is that if we spend a lot of time planning out every single action of ours, then we don’t get to experience the moments of spontaneity that truly make experiences memorable (this was probably not the best thing to put in an article about planners). I think that the only way for me to do that is to allow myself to believe that some things will last forever. Because that gives me the mental space to enjoy it while it lasts and my memories can comfort me when it ends.
If I get really lucky, maybe these people will choose to change right next to me and our bond will evolve in the most wondrous way. But even if they don’t, I will love these brilliant people forever because the time I have spent with them is stored in something more permanent than a planner — it’s stored in memories that fill me up every time I look at photos of us.
Smiling with our legs in the pool during summer. Pretending to be scared of a dinosaur statue behind us when the only thing we were truly scared of was drifting apart. Dancing at apartment functions while trying not to mess up the choreography that we learnt only hours ago. Wrapping our arms around each other and laughing at a joke that was only funny to us. Staring at a lake as an evening breeze swept through our hair, the biting cold barely noticeable over the warmth of being in each others’ presence.
All of these photos could have easily fit into my planner’s last few pages. But putting them there felt like I was tying them to this year and I didn’t want to do that. Those were all moments that felt like they would last for infinity. And that was what made them so special to me.
To everyone who has frozen time for me — I am grateful for your existence. I love you more than I could ever put into words. Thank you, for everything.
Merci mille fois.
Hot Air Balloons
Like most amazing creations, hot air balloons are colourful and use fire to do productive things (if only I could do that). To me, they seem like some kind of oddly-shaped, tame dragons.
Ever since I have known of their existence, I have wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride. The numerous pictures that I have seen of these beautiful contraptions floating in the air at sunset make me all the more certain that this is something I must experience at least once in a lifetime.
While I have travelled on planes and have sat on huge ferris wheels, I feel like a hot air balloon ride would feel completely different. Here, you would be drifting in the sky while enjoying the cool breeze blowing over your face as you take in the magnificent view sprawling below.
But the more I think about hot air balloon rides, the less I actually want to go on one. These rides seem like one of those ideas that are better in your head and not as fun while executing. So you end up scrubbing the walls and ceiling of your kitchen while cursing Pinterest and everyone who told you that making whipped cream from scratch would be a great idea. This mistake isn’t one that can be fixed with just sugar or cream. A mistake like this can only be fixed by using a time machine to convince your past self to either not make a birthday cake without adult supervision or pay closer attention while ratios were being taught in school.
Another issue that I might run into will be what to do when I am on the hot air balloon. While some rides might only last for around ten minutes, others can last for upto an hour, especially if they take place over hills and other scenic places. Knowing myself, I’ll probably end up with the one person in the group with whom I have nothing in common except for the fact that we were both too scared to tell other people that we barely know each other. But instead of actually making an effort to converse, we’ll just stand in awkward silence and watch the others have fun together while our resentment festers and our hatred for each other burns brighter than the fire above us.
I also found out that a license is required to operate a hot air balloon, which is legally a registered aircraft. This information makes me even more afraid to actually go on a ride because, from my experience, a license is only needed for activities that could potentially be extremely dangerous. Now, I don’t mean to imply that I thought riding in a basket attached to a balloon that has a fire burning in it would be a completely hazard-free experience, but I do know that in case anything goes wrong, my first reaction will be to set something on fire. While this may soothe me, I can say with absolute certainty that the same would not hold true for the other people accompanying me. Their unreasonable fear would cause me to panic, which would then lead to extreme confusion in the basket. The end result would either end in me lighting more things on fire or getting thrown out of a flying hot air balloon.
I hope this article has encouraged you to embark on your own mental journey (preferably via hot air balloon) and think of doing something that you’ve always wanted to do. I would encourage you to attempt to do it without overthinking and try to cause as much chaos as possible. That way, even if whatever you do doesn’t feel as magical as it did in your head, you have other, better memories to remember the experience by. I also feel obligated to let you know every time I have abided by this principle, something has caught on fire.
In my opinion, ribbons are one of the few truly excellent things that human beings have created.
For my fourth birthday party, my mother stuck long strands of blue ribbon to the ceiling of my room to replicate the rippling waves under the sea, which was the theme of my party. The shades of shifting blue filled me with a sense of peace and tranquility for about four minutes. That feeling was soon replaced by anger and frustration because of the fact that people were trying to climb these ribbons. Yes, human children who were four years old were trying to climb ribbons stuck to my ceiling with cello tape. At the end of the party, there was a knot of tangled ribbons on the floor and an angry four year old who had learnt that beautiful things can’t exist for long in a world of idiots.
In spite of this delightful experience, my love for ribbons has only grown stronger by the year. Almost every activity book, diary, or scrapbook I used to own had some sort of ribbon decoration or bookmark attached to it. I used to obsessively watch ribbon craft tutorials for a while. After many (failed) attempts at recreating those crafts, I settled for using ribbons to just tie the pages of my school projects and scrapbook sheets.
Now, as many of you might know, I have a special relationship with fire. So imagine my delight upon learning that one way to prevent ribbons from unfurling and trailing thread was to simply burn their edges. I managed to fit ribbon-burning in my daily schedule and I looked forward to every new day as it meant that I would have more ribbons to burn. This was around the time when my mother became seriously concerned about me and encouraged me to use washi tape instead.
Washi tape might be gorgeous, but its beauty pales in comparison to the thrill that accompanies working with ribbons. However, I will acknowledge the fact that this change might be one of the main reasons as to why my house is still intact.
While we’re on the topic of potential disasters, two years ago, we were asked to make a scrapbook for each subject in school where we had to “creatively” display all the concepts that we had learnt in each chapter. Flipping through these pages now, all I see is a lot of love, care and pretty lettering. The irony of me not loving or caring as much about those subjects whose textbooks had tiny and almost unreadable fonts is not lost on me (French is an obvious exception). I find it so weird that doing things I love can change my perception of other things that I may not love as much, simply because I’m doing them around the same time.
Everyone has certain tiny things that fill their hearts with glimmers of hope. One of my best friends used to love Russian nesting dolls, dreamcatchers and sand art. Another friend of mine loves felt-tip markers, glitter and wooden beads. Soap bubbles, huge posters, tiny umbrellas, lip balm, pop-up cards - they’re all small (and legal) things that can bring a huge smile on people’s faces.
A nice patterned ribbon still brings me a tremendous amount of joy. Every time we get a gift box, I immediately use the ribbon for a ridiculous hairstyle. Studying organic chemistry with a glittery ribbon tied in a bow may not make the subject any easier, but it does make looking in the mirror a lot more fun.
So I’ve filled my life with these seemingly insignificant things that just mean the entire world to me and they may or may not have taken over my life. While you guess whether I’m talking about collages, my friends or arson, I’m going to spend the next few hours getting this ribbon out of my curly and (now) tangled hair.
I am actually not a big fan of hummus. Oh wait, I’ve been informed by the editors that that’s probably not the best way to start an article that’s supposed to be about hummus.
Let me try again.
I used to barely like hummus. But I like it a little more every time my mother orders hummus and pita bread and makes me take a bite of it because she thinks it tastes absolutely wonderful. Also, the reason I am writing this very article is because a friend of mine (who may or may not write for the same column as my friend from the first article) told me to write one about hummus.
If you want a recipe for hummus, Google it. Or Yahoo! it. Or Bing it. I genuinely don’t find people using Bing weird because one of my best friends used to use Bing instead of Google for everything.
Something I like about hummus is the fact that it seems really easy to make. Apparently all you have to do is puree a bunch of ingredients and it’s done. (Can you tell that I lost my patience after reading just one recipe?)
Food is a large part of my life (shocker, right?) and a lot of my favourite food constitutes that category solely based on the memories surrounding them. My best friend (who used Bing) when I was nine used to hate ketchup (still does). So while I still love eating fries with ketchup, eating them with salt and chilli powder or chaat masala still feels a lot more special. I remember how we used to eat that while watching clips of Doraemon. She focused on the screen and I focused on trying not to burn my mouth while stuffing piping hot fries in it. One of us would inevitably make the mistake of blowing on the plate and cause a cloud of salt, spice and pain to fly in our eyes.
That’s the same reason why I crush the dark blue Lays chips, mix them in Greek yogurt and use that as a dip for pita bread instead of hummus - because a friend told me to. (It tastes heavenly. Try it.) The more I think about it, the more examples I can find - vanilla milkshakes, strawberry syrup and crushed ice, watermelon-flavoured lollipops. A lot of my food preferences have been formed by bits and pieces of the people closest to me through the years.
This also happens to explain a lot about my personality. I pick up other people’s habits like bowerbirds pick up bright coloured objects. The result, in both cases, is something that interests scientists and uncannily resembles a portal to hell.
I get scarily obsessed with things for short (or long) periods of time and have that become a large part of my personality. So the people who knew me five years ago think I’m a completely different person now because I’m not obsessed with the same things that I was back then. Much like the taste of hummus, my obsessions change drastically every six months. In a way, it feels as though I moult my various personalities on a daily basis.
While it may sound relatively innocent to you, this philosophy can be interpreted in a more criminal way, which is completely unintentional. It may not be illegal, per se, to convince someone that arson would be a great hobby (if it was, I would be in quite a bit of trouble), but it is wrong to watch them get arrested with a smile on your face.
But identity is just a word created by people who want you to think they know what they are doing, and it’s something that can also be stolen. So do whatever you want and set strong passwords because the world can be a little mean sometimes.
Wait, here’s a more wholesome message: be so authentically yourself that people feel safe being themselves around you. In this happy fantasy world where everyone is comfortable being themselves, no one will really want to pretend otherwise. (Identity theft prevented.)
In all seriousness, I don’t think another introverted, ex-bird lover francophile who has an unhealthy obsession with crime and musical theatre exists. And that’s probably for the best.
For the past few years, I have always felt that I don’t create as much art as I should. School, classes, and existential dread take up a lot more space in my daily routine than they used to. Personally, to create art I need to find time and motivation. I barely have one, and I’m still searching for the other.
Also, I cannot draw. Correction: I cannot draw well. To be more specific, I have a hard time drawing realistic stuff, and the only thing I hate more than talking to humans is drawing them. As someone who wants to pursue design, I am working on this and going to classes where I need to regularly submit assignments. So I’m creating something, but the empty feeling inside is still there and I don’t think it’s going anywhere.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not an artist. I’m not a designer either, but at least I know that I could be one. Apart from an insane amount of practice and skill, art also needs you to be in touch with your emotions. Impossible. Whenever I see people who are able to communicate their feelings through sculptures, paintings, or sketches, I stare in awe.
Design requires you to understand other people’s perspectives and solve problems, so I find it easier to separate my emotions and understand how to apply any feedback in a logical way. But art is a lot more personal and all feedback, comments, and criticism shatter me. How am I supposed to show my emotions through art when I can barely understand them as emotions?
This makes me think that everything I do, feel, and am has to be packaged and presented in a way that makes it palatable for everyone around me. Because I know that while perfection feels unnatural, too much imperfection makes people uncomfortable. So there’s a balance that needs to be maintained. But the only way to maintain it is to analyse everything and everyone around me and see what level of imperfection is tolerated.
People may say that being yourself is the best thing to do because others fall in love with your little quirks and imperfections. I have learnt that while this is not completely false, different people can tolerate different levels of me being myself (which is honestly very understandable). So I have had to develop filters and modify, or even suppress, parts of my personality based on where I am and who I am with. I don’t think that means I’m being fake or insincere. Sometimes it’s just basic common sense. For example, I cannot go around talking about how I have a forty-seven step plan to burn- (for legal purposes I cannot finish that sentence).
So, almost all the quirks and flaws that make you fall in love with someone or something are, on some level, intentional. The bloopers after a movie. The audible breaths that a singer takes in a recorded song. The “unfiltered” emotions shown in YouTube videos. They remind us that those people are human. But in a way that we can digest. They don’t show us the hours spent rehearsing a single scene, the million times a chorus is sung to get it perfect, or the blanket of deafening silence that accompanies the crying. Because it’s uncomfortable to realise just how human we are.
This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you to love yourself no matter what and remember that everyone feels the same way you do. But I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know if everyone overthinks everything like I do. I don’t know how many people are reading this article and disagreeing with every sentence I write. I don’t know what conclusion to draw or how to reassure you that everything will turn out well in the end because everything I’ve written here is based solely on my experiences. I’ve only been alive for sixteen years. There’s still so much that I do not know. And it terrifies me.
Anyway, back to art. I still believe that it relies mainly on emotions and skill. Since I have too much of one and too little of the other, I realised that I could just create art because I wanted to. As someone who lives in a whirlwind of deadlines and to-do lists, doing something that requires neither feels unnatural.
This took me around eight hours spread over three months and I created it in the hope that it would make me feel better. While it did not, I still like the way it looks. I hope you do too. And even if you don’t there’s literally nothing I can do about it. So, please keep your negative comments to yourself because like I said, I cannot handle criticism.
This article is written in third person. And first person (by the same person). If it confuses you—thanks, that was my intention.
Clocks scare me a lot more than they should. When I was younger, any time past midnight was naturally scary. That was the time when monsters resided under the bed and witches flew in the skies. That was when good girls were supposed to sleep and dream about becoming ornithologists (long story, will tell you in a while). That was the time when I believed in witches, monsters and dreams.
Now, my bed touches the floor and the only thing that would scare me about the monsters living there is the fact that they’ve heard me screaming Defying Gravity and refused to join in. The sky now looks like a wonderful escape and I wouldn’t mind joining the witches up there. This ‘good girl’ hates sleeping and has dropped biology (Not a combination that goes hand-in-hand). What would ten-year-old me think about this person who had given up on her dream?
Now, the deadlines over her head scare her almost as much as the thoughts inside it.
Clocks always remind her that she cannot figure out how to manage her time. Because time management is apparently the key to success. Every exam she’s not able to finish because she spent too much time on the first few questions, every night she gets less than four hours of sleep because she let too much work pile up, every opportunity she declines because she doesn’t have “enough time” is a reminder of this.
That’s why there’s no clock in my room.
If there’s no clock, there’s no time. If there’s no time, there are no deadlines. If there are no deadlines, there’s no pressure. And if there’s no pressure, there’s a girl with stars in her eyes dreaming of ornithology. And French. I really miss French.
The more she learns about time, the more she hates it. It speeds up when you don’t want it to and slows down when you want it to speed by. That’s honestly the only smart thing I know about time. Physics isn’t my best subject but I still study it. And French was my best but I dropped it.
Animals don’t care about time. At least cats don’t (I think). They stand and look like ethereal beings without worrying about the fact that they have exams in two weeks, twenty sketches to complete and tests to study for, yet what they have chosen to do is write an article about how much work they have instead of actually doing said work. Ingenious.
Clocks are not the only thing that show the passage of time. Flipping through sketchbooks show the change in her drawing style as she flips from oil pastel to watercolour, pencil to blank pages. My hands still shake when I draw straight lines. The strokes are not as confident as they should be. I really should practice more.
While she is absolutely terrified of “wasting time”, she also loves to watch a modern rose-gold clock as it ticks in a silent living room. While time seems to slow, my heart does the opposite. Racing and racing until the only thing that can keep pace with it are my thoughts. Why aren’t you doing something? My to-do lists take up three pages now.
Clocks just seem to be a reminder of all the things left to do. They imply that we all have a purpose. That life has a purpose. That certain people are meant to do certain things and that some things are meant to happen. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Life has no purpose and a lot of things don’t happen for a reason. If that scares you, good. It really should.
So, go back and do your pending work. The clock is ticking. One day, I’m going to smash it.
Trāṭaka is a yogic cleansing practice or meditation, which involves staring at a candle flame, that I was recently asked to try. This technique is supposed to bring energy to my third eye and enhance my psychic abilities because that is exactly the kind of mental help I need.
So, I attended a meditation session, as this concept intrigued me, and I wanted to see if it would actually help. Also, if you’ve read my previous article, you know I love a good controlled fire. So what better way to spend a Friday evening than to just stare at that same fire for half an hour?
The day arrives, I get all my things ready: a candle, matchboxes and a stool. The instructor is a sweet middle-aged lady who doesn’t look too comfortable with technology. Taking a deep breath, she starts guiding us through the virtual meditation session.
“Make sure the room is dark.”
I absolutely adore this already.
“Light the candle and keep it three feet away from you at eye level.”
Simple enough, I can do that.
Wait- why are these matchsticks not lighting?
“You can place the candle on a stool if you are sitting on the floor.”
Why is this taking so long?
Why are the matchsticks just breaking in half?
How has everyone else already lit their candles?
“Close your eyes and take deep breaths.”
For a pyromaniac, I’m surprisingly horrible at lighting stuff on fire.
“Open your eyes and focus on the floor,”
FINALLY, one caught fire.
Where on Earth is the candle wick?
Why is it hidden somewhere in the wax?
No, no, NO- This one also burnt out.
“Look at the tiles and concentrate on the patterns.”
Yes the lovely pattern of burnt and used matchsticks piling up near my foot.
The tiles have definitely suffered permanent damage.
“Now focus on the base of the stool where you have placed the candle,”
Oh my- just wait PLEASE.
Are these fireproof matches?
Why are they not working?
“Slowly concentrate on just the candle, not the wick, not the flame,”
Believe me, I wish there was some sort of flame to concentrate on.
“Now bring your eyes to the yellowish-orange part of the flame,”
Yes yes YES!
I need to be extra careful this time.
“Try not to blink your eyes.”
Oh I am trying my absolute best.
“Move your focus to the black wick of the flame,”
Oh. My. Gods.
How did I manage to drop this one too!?
The entire matchbox toppled over.
Kill me now.
“Now concentrate on the golden aura of the flame,”
Which of these stupid sticks have already been used?
Why is this room so dark!?
DAMN IT I touched the end of that matchstick which just got extinguished.
“Let the tears flow, they will cleanse your eyes,”
Tears are definitely flowing but I’m not sure if this counts.
“Bring your focus back to the flame.”
Why does this hurt so much?
Is that a blister?
“Picture the flame clearly, now visualise it between your eyes,”
In the name of all that is holy please let me light this goddamn candle.
IT HAS BEEN LIT
Did I just use up an entire matchbox to light this stupid candle?
“Close your eyes and hold on to this image for as long as possible,”
I think this image of victory will last for a long, long while-
Is that hot wax running down the candle going to damage this stool? Of course it is
“When the image fades away, rub your hands and place them over your eyes,”
Let me just pick it up and place it- OH MY GOD
There is hot wax over my blister right now.
"Feel the heat and slowly open your eyes,”
I believe I’m feeling more heat than you could ever imagine.
“Extinguish the candle flame.”
Are you kidding me.
I hate myself. And this candle.
Did I just throw the candle close to my flammable wooden bookshelf? Of course I did.
“I hope your mind is now calm and your muscles are relaxed.”
I’m so sorry but the answer to that is a resounding no.
Why is literal arson more relaxing than this?
“This increases the stamina of your eyes, focus, willpower,”
My focus and willpower have certainly been tested today.
“If you have power in your eyes, regularly practising this will reduce that too.”
Well, good to know
“Thank you and hope you have a wonderful evening.”
I definitely will, not too sure about those people living in that wooden shack though.
What I learnt from this experience is that meditation requires a lot more concentration and effort than I had assumed. I would recommend being more prepared and organised. Also, just a tip, if you live in a wooden house make sure your neighbour isn’t a raging pyromaniac.
I find the concept of candles a little arrogant. Human beings wanted to tame literally everything they saw, and they didn’t even stop at fire.
However, I absolutely adore candles, since they are the safest way to enjoy fire. Think about it. Forest fires leave a permanent scar on the vegetation of this habitat. A lot of them are caused by cigarettes left unattended, because why stop at destroying your lungs when you can destroy the tiny speck of biodiversity that is left on this planet?
Bonfires are the worst way to interact with other humans. Talking to people already gives me excruciating pain, I really don’t need mosquitoes sucking my blood and mobs of people jeering at me as I burn while tied to a stake. Arson is illegal and brings up too many irritating questions like: “Where did you get all that gasoline?” “How did you escape from a burning building unscathed?” “How many times do I have to tell you that pyromania is not a personality trait?” “Aren’t you that witch we burned last week?”
And as I’ve mentioned, social interaction is very painful for me. Also, following the law is an absolutely fantastic life choice and I totally recommend it! (Did I say that right?)
And sure, candles can cause all of the aforementioned accidents, as well as summon a demon,but counterpoint: they look very cute and the demon (my cousin) was very understanding so I will continue to love them (I mean the candles). Because how can you not? Especially the scented ones. My favourite candles are the white plain wax candles, with a smoky aroma that transports me to the ashy remains of my hometown, while a boring federal court judge frantically tries to explain that while I may not be flammable, other people are. Did you know that scented candles can also have a big impact on our taste buds? That explains why my wax crayons get over so soon. (My cousin has been writing his thesis on scented candles in crayon - the pencils snap in his clawed hands).
I recently discovered that candle flames contain all four known forms of carbon, so they contain millions of tiny diamonds. That explains why they’re so expensive. I also think that candles are cooler than diamonds, because diamonds just look shiny and can cut stuff. Candles look cute, provide heat and light, and can burn peopl- I mean stuff. It’s like that quote which says every atom of our body was once part of a dying star, so we are as special and unique as those stars. What a flimsy and miserable attempt to add some semblance of meaning to life. I would like to think that I am more unique than a star. Stars are just floating balls of gas (for now). I am a witch that is full of potential and capable of conscious thought, and I write about… those floating balls of gas.
So, while we may not be completely unique or special, there are some candles that definitely are. So, I’ll end with pictures of them just to remind you what this article was supposed to be about.
A croquembouche is an absolutely glorious French dessert made up of choux pastry puffs neatly arranged in a cone and bound with caramel threads.
(Voilà! Isn’t she the most beautiful dessert you’ve laid eyes on?)
Croquembouches are delicate and magnificent, usually reserved for special occasions like weddings or communions.
One of my friends said that the cream puffs look like paniyaram (a dish that is similar to a mini idli but with more vegetables). While that isn’t necessarily wrong, the nature and taste of the pastry are completely different. First of all, the pastry is sweet, not savoury. Second, (good) choux pastry is light and fluffy. The pastry puffs are usually filled with a rich cream that just elevates the dish to a whole new level. Most recipes use a vanilla-flavoured cream since it works perfectly with the other elements of the dish.
My personal favourite part of the videos of people making croquembouches is the assembly of the dish. The puffs are dipped in caramel and arranged to form a pile and finally, the caramel is drizzled on top to form threads. After thorough “research”, I have come to the conclusion that this part of the video is most enjoyable when watched in slow motion. Multiple times. So that it can appear in your dreams.
While I may lack the equipment, competence, and patience required to make a croquembouche, I do possess the idealism and free time required to fantasize about doing so. After spending months obsessing over this French delicacy, I have realised that a croquembouche is not just a dish, but an experience.
So, I have put together a few of the many croquembouche related activities on my bucket list to inspire some of you to embark on a journey with the croquembouche.
Eat a croquembouche: I have never actually tried a croquembouche in this life. However, I have eaten choux pastry, caramel and cream filling separately. On three different days. (The three best days of my life.)
A Croquembouche Birthday: On my 21st birthday, I will walk into a fancy French pastry shop and pick up a fancy French croquembouche that I would have ordered a while back. Then, I will eat that fancy French croquembouche while sitting on the fancy French floor and contemplating the meaning of life. When I realise that the fancy French people are staring at me with expressions of horror on their fancy French faces, I will realise that life does not have any true, discernible meaning. As I finish the fancy French croquembouche I will realise that this fancy French day marks another year of my life over. After finishing the fancy French croquembouche I will get up, walk back to the fancy French counter, tip them and tell them that I loved the fancy French croquembouche, because if life is so short I’d want to be rebellious. And what’s more rebellious than being kind and compassionate in a world that is full of hate and anger?
Croquembouche Russian roulette: This will be a fun game to play with a minimum of six (alive) people. In this version of Russian roulette, one third of the cream puffs will be filled with chocolate cream, while the rest will be filled with vanilla cream. The people who get the puffs with chocolate cream win the attention that they clearly desire because I see no other reason to make a ridiculous game this big of an event. This game is open to interpretation and you can change the rules as you see fit.
However, I don’t recommend playing this version of the game as a mashup with the original. Here, you have a hundred percent chance of eating a delicious dessert. The original “game” offers you a one in three chance of experiencing something completely unknown and a two in three chance of experiencing something so painful that it has driven you to play this game. I would suggest not playing the latter and seeking out help if that suggestion was disappointing to you.
All in all, croquembouches are a fun and interesting dessert to try. They vary in size and flavour, so try as many combinations as possible in order to find your favourite type!