"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Masquerade

Now Playing: Begin Again by Taylor Swift (turn the lock and put my headphones on, he always said he didn't get this song but I do)

If you ever see me floating around uni I think I pass quite convincingly as a uni student. I say that because...it all feels like a dream. I remember being in year six just wishing it was over, wallowing in the sheer misery that I had six more years to go. Through the ups and downs of school, the good times and the bad...it just seemed never-ending, right up until the very last day. I can't say I entirely enjoyed my schooling, but I didn't fully hate it, either.

But now I've been spat out too soon and too late all at once, into...uni. Uni is a whole other ball of wax, but I feel kind of other, like I don't belong, like I'm an intruder. I feel like I'm masquerading as a student, not quite one of the rest yet. Every day I feel like this is going to end, and I'll be kicked back to where I belong.

I'm not saying university is easy or brilliant, either. It's boiling hot and the campus is huge and very easy to get lost in. Student services is somewhat lacking, if not entirely nonexistent, and classes are scheduled and cancelled at random. Lectures are huge and confusing. Books are absurdly expensive and there are old faces everywhere - for better or for worse. But I like it.

I wish I could stay. The coolest thing is that, for now, that wish has been granted.


identity.


Now Playing: Suddenly by Hugh Jackman (trusting me the way you do, I'm so afraid of failing you)

So university classes start this Monday, and I'm super duper trooper pumped. I essentially grew up on a university campus and my sister has been going to uni for a year now, so I'm quite familiar with university life and how things work, and I really like it. I like the anonymity, too - although some I might care to mention have taken the whole 'university is a clean slate' thing a bit too seriously, I do like the opportunity to begin again.

Or do I? Sometimes it's hard to tell. I like how people here spell my name the way I like it and have no problem calling me 'G' - after four years of having the licence to mock my name mercilessly my high school chums seemed rather reluctant to adopt a pronounceable abbreviation. I like being nobody, so I can become somebody that I'd like to be. I like being in a place where you don't get lynched for being a feminist, or an arts student, or just who you are - mostly because nobody cares, but that's another story. I like the freedom to do what I want and to finally, genuinely, be studying what I want to be studying. I like wearing what I want every day and meeting new people.

But then, of course, there are the false assumptions and conclusions people make when the university is trying to get acquainted with a whole new cohort of students. The number of times I've been mistaken for an exchange student, asked to take remedial English lessons, propositioned by countless churches...it does get exhausting. At high school I had a reputation - I was the atheist, the feminist, and the English bug, and in all of the above you don't mess with me. It's not like that anymore - I don't know the people here and they don't know me. I've dedicated my life to articulating myself and my opinions and I find it especially uncomfortable to be in a place full of strangers. But, c'est la vie, I will endure.

There are clubs and unions here for almost anything imaginable - and, of course, about twenty religiously-affiliated clubs. Some of them are rather gracious - if you're Christian, great, if you're not, leave in peace. Others are a little...pushy. LGBT rights, reproductive rights, women's rights, sex positivity - these are all things I hold dear to me, and things that the church and I often have disagreements on. It's been interesting, but exhausting, I suppose, having to argue my case, to explain to a hostile audience things you hold to be unshakeable and unalienable truths. But I'm not a floozy, and it's good to stretch those muscles after so long without a fight. I know how to hold my own, to stand up for what I believe in, to fight for what I believe is right. Even the Mormon guy had to concede defeat.

The thing I hate most is being mistaken for an exchange student, or a science/commerce/anything but arts student, someone unfamiliar with Australia and the English language. It's not exactly a great assumption to make, given the absurdly high numbers of second and third generation Asian immigrants in contemporary Australian society. I'm not an immigrant, I'm an Australian. I'm an English major and top in the state in English and I wish people would approach me with an open mind and no expectations rather than jumping to all sorts of conclusions and assumptions. Who I am and what people perceive me to be is two totally different things and it's exhausting, having to constantly state and restate the truth. Conformity has suddenly become so seductive, to just be what people think I am to cut all the talk, the awkwardness, etc. But the only failure I will accept in myself is the failure to conform and, whether I try or not, I fail spectacularly at that anyway.

I've only been at uni for two days and I'm happy free confused and lonely at the same time. It's miserable and magical and...I'm having the time of my life.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Wordle: Left


Emerald Waves

I am a fool to still care for you
I know in my heart you are good and safe

You left me on an icy island
In a cold grey sea 

There in the frost you still dwell
My expendable presence discarded
 
And every tide washes away the memory of me.

A world away from you the sea breeze dries my tears 
I left my love in emerald waves

My heart is a thousand miles down to the sea bed
Where even you cannot break it

I have drowned the vulnerabilities
Of love and longing 

I left my love in emerald waves
Do not fret, my love

For although I leave you alone, leave you behind
I have left you here in Paradise.

Click here for a discussion of Emerald Waves

Friday, February 22, 2013

Video Friday: The Bechdel Test

Now Playing: Highway Don't Care by Tim McGraw ft. Taylor Swift and Keith Urban (The highway won't hold you tonight, the highway don't know your alive, the highway don't care if you're all alone, but I do, I do)

In honour of the upcoming Oscars:





Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: gender roles are social cages


Unspoken

You're the one pushing me away
So why is the blame on me?

I just...
There's rhyme and reason to what you say

And I know to you I must seem
The epitome of reckless irrationality

But you know better than anyone
That I only get angry

Because you are close enough to hurt me.
Or...

You once were.
They're not expectations, just memories

And if the void between us
Is an abyss I tumble through

I'll accept the cold as I always do
It hurts that these words might be a comfort to you.

Click here for a discussion of Unspoken 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shattered Beautiful Tragic

Today I saw old friends and felt the sun on my skin
I missed these as much as I miss your embrace

We wake in lonely beds in different cities
With the silence of your unspoken goodbyes 
Ringing in my ears 

Took a deep breath
My grandmothers never walked such hallowed halls

And men like you are the reason why

Time is taking its sweet time replacing you
Yesterday I died, tomorrow's bleeding 
You left me shattered
But breaks must break again to heal

And I will begin again
Step into a glorious future
In a world without you

Finding answers is forgetting all the questions we called home 
Passing the graves of the unknown. 

Inspired by Shattered by Trading Yesterday and Sad Beautiful Tragic by Taylor Swift
Click here for a discussion of Shattered Beautiful Tragic 


Music Monday: Wildest Moments



For friends and the music they inspire.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Wordle: Forgive


Alawi

The snow is melting
And my heart is breaking
It is time for me to go home

You must forgive our friend for me
I should have seen how young he is
How unwittingly he has hurt me

And you must forgive me, I think
For loving too easily, too greedily

What a fool I am
I am sure the spirits mock me
God put my smile upon your face

Forgive me
I cannot forgive you for leaving
Without even saying goodbye

Perhaps when we meet again
Here or in the hereafter
I will have the wisdom to forgive you

I will go back to my life
Of fighting and wandering
In the place of eternal promise
And endless disappointment

You will find other girls to waste your money on
Forgive me if I seem bitter
But you know and I know it is the truth

The snow is melting
And my smile is fading
It is time for me to go home

Click here for a discussion of Alawi 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Comraderie

Now Playing: Begin Again by Taylor Swift (you throw your head back laughing like a little kid, I think it's strange that you think I'm funny because he never did)

I think it's safe to say that seventeen years of being a relatively unappealing girl in Australia has made me rather cynical about Australian boys. Sure, they're easy going and on the whole pretty good looking, but you'll forgive me for saying that most of them are pretty calculative, insincere, stingy, insensitive lot, far too interested in impressing their mates than genuinely impressing their girls. The kind of boys who think I'm desperate to crawl into bed with them if they tell me to my face I'm a feminist and therefore eternally unfuckable. And whilst you might be quite offended by that, I'm really beyond caring. Whether I'm here in Korea or back home in Australia I wasn't exactly in high demand, and the people I have met here have taught me that alienating boys who already dislike me is no loss to anyone involved.

The boys here are from very different cultures than Australian society. Many of them are from stereotypically sexist, patriarchal, fanatically religious countries, but you see very little of that in them. What I have seen is genuine sincerity, a kind of sweet, shy generosity that is so rare in Australia. A few of them are extremely wealthy, but that almost seems beside the point - it's not just their easiness with money, their unwillingness to haggle over a few dollars with friends, that makes their generosity stand out to me like a halo in the dark. It's the kind of generosity from the heart, the kind that touches your soul with its exquisite innocence and kindness. They're all absolute sweethearts, doing things that boys back at home will only do at gunpoint - opening doors, shouting meals, giving little gifts.

But the sweetest thing is watching all the boys from all the different countries becoming brothers. English is theoretically our common language, but for many of us it's a second language, and so often spoken with rather interesting grammar and very thick accents, so nobody can really understand anyone else. Watching them work together, laugh at things only boys understand, running up to hug someone they only met six weeks ago...it's very touching. The comraderie is really beautiful. I love watching other people smile.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Flickers and Embers

Now Playing: Begin Again by Taylor Swift (and you don't know how nice that is, but I do)

I'm only here for a few more days and I know I will leave Korea with mixed feelings. I know I will not miss the cramped spaces or the fish explosion in the microwave or the inedible food at the cafeteria or the way the sink was clogged with ramen and squid and overflowed over the long weekend. But I know I will miss every day being an adventure, every day being fresh opportunities to communicate with a thousand cultures in a thousand tongues. I will miss calling somewhere other than Perth 'home', I'll miss the swirling dance of snow on my birthday, I will miss all the sights and smells that are all at once bizarrely foreign and strangely comforting.

And then there are the people. My heart breaks when I think of all of the people I must leave behind. In Perth I never really found my crowd, people who loved me so effortlessly and unconditionally, people who I could really be myself around. I have barely known these people for six weeks and they are my dearest friends. I've never known such exquisite sincerity or generosity. I've never been forgiven for being myself.

And, of course, there are new butterfly feelings I will be leaving behind. I'll never know how I really feel, or how anyone really feels, but that's okay. I have only a few days to let as much of it sink in - the way your ears go red when you see me, the soft curl of your thick dark eyelashes, your more or less permanent sleepy confusion, the way you never say no to chocolate, your sweet, shy generosity, your thousand beautiful smiles. And although this isn't the first story with a bittersweet ending for me, this is the first time I've had these beautiful butterfly feelings without the inevitable crash and burn of the toxic mix of feelings and hormones and being young and reckless. The first person I will remember with genuine affection without the hate and jealousy of could bes and should bes. There's something really innocent about that, how we will never be more than a boy and a girl with a few smiles and a few trinkets between us.

But I think what I will miss most of all were the little flickers of genuine happiness here. I haven't felt happy in a long time and so it's a slightly strange feeling for me, to feel so light and giddy and genuinely, euphorically happy, even if these moments are shortlived and plagued with fatigue or anger or depression. It's only here that I'm starting to feel these flickers again, these tiny sparks of a flame I thought I had long lost, in this world where things are simpler, where people are sweeter, where problems are erased with each fresh snowdrift. When I come back it will be a new school, new people, a new life, but it's still the place of old haunts and old flames. Here I began again. I hope I can continue that in a place where I am haunted by ghosts and have one too many skeletons in my closet.

But for now I will enjoy the final few flickers of happiness here, and hope they are the sparks for an eternal fire to keep me good and safe. If I can just leave here with a few embers, I won't let the fire die.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

حَرَام

The butterflies shimmer a soft sweet white
Whispering a prayer to keep me safe
I once stood on holy ground
I once had a state of grace

The butterflies shine a bright blinding white
To tell the believers I cannot be tamed
I have made my own deals with the Devil
With flesh and blood I have bought my place

The butterflies are a blank empty white
For ignorance and unwritten words on my page
You know I'll never deserve a clean slate
What's done is done, too little too late

The butterflies glisten a cold frosty white
Could you consort an infidel bride?
Could you ask me to starve, wither and die
To masquerade as a virgin in paradise by your side?

The butterflies glow a ghastly sinister white
I am temptation, Lilith and pride
I wish you days of virtue, wish me dreamless nights
It is enough that we are two souls under the same sky

Click here for a discussion of حَرَام

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

touched.

Now Playing: Everything Has Changed by Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran (and all I feel is my stomach is butterflies, the beautiful kind, making up for lost time)

So it was my birthday yesterday and I had the time of my life. In between the first proper snow in about a month to the most epic snowball fight around the campus and being stuffed stupid with delicious Arab food and losing my voice at our favourite 노래방 to being spoiled rotten with mountains of presents and just...hanging out with the best people you will ever meet.

I'm just so touched by the effortless sincerity and generosity of the people I have met here, of the people from all across the globe that I am so proud to call my friends. They have filled my time here with endless fun and laughter. Every gift has its own story, its own meaning, its own sweet set of memories. I've only known these people for a few short weeks, we have no real common language and we're all just strangers thrown in together at the deep end, but they're surely some of the best people I will ever know. Because who am I, really? A little girl they met barely a month ago that they will never see again less than two weeks from now. I am so glad I've met my crowd, after so long of being told I'm not good enough and scraping for any meagre friendship I could get my hands on. These people are the most beautiful, wonderful people I've ever met and I will miss them dearly.

많이 사랑해, 친구들.

고마워, 스키피.

Wordless Wednesday: Slut Shaming


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Never Grow Up: Behind-the-Scenes

Now Playing: Starlight by Taylor Swift (I said oh my, what a marvellous tune, it was the best night, never would forget how we moved, the whole place was dressed to the nines and we were dancing, dancing like we're made of starlight)

Never Grow Up. Done. It's taken exactly three months.

It was a series that sprung out of nowhere, really - I was just reminiscing, back to darker times, happier times, dream-makers and heart-breakers. And from there I just realized how much has happened, in these last seventeen years of life.

It was a turning point, writing this series. I know I write a lot about myself and my past but I'm constantly running away from it, from things I don't want to remember but can never forget. But something happened, last year, that made me realize that the things that I've been through, the decisions that I am ashamed of, the mistakes I made and the traps I fell into...they're all a part of me, and have made me the person I am now - for better or for worse. And there comes a time when you're dumb and sixteen and you're presented with the same messy situation you were presented with when you were even dumber and thirteen, but you've got the wisdom and the courage to make better choices, to avoid temptation. There's so much stuff I wish I could have told myself. I wish I had gotten these letters.

It has not been easy, writing this series. There are some things I didn't want to talk about, some things I never wanted to relive and remember. My surgery when I was five was particularly traumatic and being seven was a bit too much for my too-little self. And growing up is hard, as I realized when I reflected on my frame of mind from eleven to fourteen. But it was very healing and cathartic to write these letters, and I'm glad I did them before I got too old to remember the tiny little big huge momentous things of growing up.

I am also glad that this series included my first guest post, by one of my dearest friends. Being sixteen was no walk in the park, but he was there for me, and for that I am glad. I can't adequately describe the headache that is post scheduling and co-ordinating a post written by someone a thousand miles away, in between time differences, my forty-hour working week and both blogger and email refusing to behave. But we got there, in the end, and it's very interesting, reading something that I've had very little say over on something that has otherwise been entirely my own work of art - my blog until now has been an entirely one-woman show.

I've just gotten back from the most amazing seventeenth birthday anyone has ever had - my friends here at Yonsei I have only known for a month, and we say goodbye in less than two weeks. And yet, they're the best people I've ever met - nowhere else in the world will you meet kinder, more generous, genuinely sincere people. I've been absolutely spoiled rotten with presents, had a surprise birthday cake halfway through classes, stuffed stupid with delicious Arab food and losing my voice from another escapade at our favourite 노래방. I love you to the moon and back, 친구들. You are forever in my heart.

This is the start of something new, something exciting, something bold and reckless and fearless. I'm determined to make 2013 a good year. I'll never grow up, because I'm forever a child at heart. I'm still me, but I'm moving onwards and upwards to something bigger and better, and I hope you'll join me as I begin again.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Never Grow Up: A Letter to Seventeen Year Old Me

Now Playing: Starlight by Taylor Swift (we were seventeen and crazy, running wild)

Dearest Seventeen,

You've made it. High school graduation. English Award. Certificate of Distinction. UWA. It's all you've ever dreamed of, and I'm so proud of you. You're made of starlight and you're aiming for the moon. You've got everything going for you, so don't hold back. Be fearless and begin again.

Dearest Seventeen, I hope you're proud of yourself, of how far you've come. You're not exactly the carefree roly-poly three year old who sat in the old booster seat at the back of daddy's car, but you're stronger, wiser, braver than trembling downtrodden seven-year-old you ever dreamed you would be.

Dearest Seventeen, you move on into the next year with fresh scars from 2012. Being sixteen was hard and heartbreaking and you're still hurting, but seventeen years of being me has taught me that you can get through anything. You're not like the other people that you're jealous of, the other people who have everything, the other people who hurt you. You've got something they don't - you've got the guts to jump in head first, fearless, and to get what you want instead of waiting for things to magically appear out of nowhere. Good looks and hoards of boys might seem like a good thing now, but these gifts are ever subject to the fickle devotion of people and a fleeting romance with time. Your spirit will stay with you forever, dearest Seventeen - not even two solid years of depression could quite kill it completely. Never stop writing how you read the world, and never stop dreaming impossible things. You're still hurting, but I swore that I would begin again for you, just like I swore I would be fearless when I was so afraid. If there's anything I've learned from constantly running from old enemies and old flames, it's that the past never fully leaves you, but you can stop it from haunting you, from hurting you. Dearest Seventeen, when I was little I thought sixteen was so grown up, but I still feel like a baby even though I wasn't really treated like one, even though there were girls who made this little piece of time we call the present a nightmare and men who were all too willing to take my childhood in their stride. You're still so young, and you've still got so much ahead of you. Things can only go up from here.

It's your birthday tomorrow, dearest Seventeen, and I wish for you everything you've ever wanted, because it's everything that you deserve. I wish for you to be fearless, be brave, and begin again. I wish for you to fall in love, with new friends, with new books, with new sparks. Sparks are already flying, dearest Seventeen. Be young and reckless, but don't get hurt again. Try everything, do everything, be everything you've ever wanted to be. School was a cage and now you've been set free. Take a deep breath and never look back.

That being said, though, dearest Seventeen, remember who you are, and remember what you've been through. Three open heart surgeries. Losing almost every friend you've ever had. So many days spent alone, so many nights crying yourself to sleep. Countless heartbreaks and disappointments. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, dearest Seventeen - be proud of who you are and what you've been through. Battle scars are nothing to be ashamed of, and you're perfect in your own imperfection.

Above all, dearest Seventeen, I wish for you to be happy. I haven't felt truly happy for a very long time now, but I hope, with the new adventure that lies ahead, you will find happiness to keep you company when things get lonely, or tough, or just to highlight those beautiful, glorious, euphoric moments. If you are happy, then nothing I've done has been in vain, and everything I've been through was worth it. All I want for you is to be happy, dearest Seventeen. That is one ambition that is an unchecked box, and it's your job to get a big fat tick in it. Good luck.

Dearest Seventeen, it snowed last night and everything looks fresh and clean and new - tabula rasa. You had the time of your life waging a massive snowball war with your new friends and you're with the best people in the world. Tomorrow is the start of something new - I give the pen to you to write this brave, exciting new chapter of your story. Life is beautiful, and you are fearless. Never forget that.

Love,
Still Sixteen

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Never Grow Up: A Letter to Sixteen Year Old Me

Now Playing: Mary's Song by Taylor Swift (I was sixteen when suddenly I wasn't that little girl you used to see but your eyes still shined like pretty lights)

This is my first guest post! This was written by a very talented writer and one of my closest friends from high school :). I don't know whether it's a testament to our friendship or the power of email that we've managed to co-ordinate this from across the globe in between my 40 hour working weeks :P. Enjoy!

But first, let me tell you the story of how 오빠 and I became friends.

A year ago now I came back from Korea and he made contact with me out of the blue, and I remember how awkward it was, those first conversations between people who have known each other for such a long time and yet don't really know each other at all. Friendship is one of those things that has no beginning or ending - stuff just happens, and you just go along with it. But when we first started becoming friends, amongst my clique falling apart and stabbing me in the back, it felt like I had a choice - to try and be the kind of person I thought someone like him would like, or to be...me. I'd done the former all my life - constantly trying to guess what people wanted from me and doing my best, but eventually failing, to live up to their expectations. It has never worked out. And even though our friendship was so new and fragile and I was still acutely aware of the differences between us, I was so tired, of trying and failing to be someone I wasn't. I decided to be myself. It was the first real 'fearless' thing I'd done since marching up to the English Office as a little twelve year old and asking to skip a grade.

오빠 and I have been friends for a year now, and our friendship is the first friendship I've had where I've been me, and to me, that is very special. We've stayed friends against the odds, I might add, but that's another thing about being sixteen that will stay with me. It seems fitting that someone to whom numbers mean nothing should be constantly living, and winning, against the odds. But I wanted someone else to write this letter. I've only been able to write the other letters because sufficient time has passed for me to have the age and wisdom to look back, on the things I am proud of, on the things that I regret, to contemplate the advice I would have given myself if I had the chance. I knew only someone else would be able to write this letter, about this year that I haven't quite gotten out of yet. And I thought there was no person better to write about the year of becoming fearless than the person who provided me with that turning point. Enjoy!

The final instalment of this series will be published on the 4th of February, the day before my birthday.

P.S. I think 오빠 would like to make it clear that I'm the one listening to Taylor Swift, not him :)

* * *

Dearest Sixteen,

Well, here it is. The big one. 16 and year 12. Who ever thought that was going to be fair?

But, like so much in your life, where no one thought you would come out, you did. You came out on top. Against what everyone has been telling you your whole life. You came out on top.

So basically what I’m saying is that 16 is your biggest “Screw you!” to the system yet :D

This was always going to be a killer of a year, and yet you powered through - you were fearless, so fearless, and that - paired with your determination - proved to be a killer combination. School, friends, medical problems, family; all can now quake at your feet, because you achieved so much. The beginning of the year was hard - I can't begin to describe how hard it was for you - and that took guts to get over. And yet you're here now, stronger than ever because of it. Take it from me; friends come and go, all throughout life. It's hard to accept that they go, but always remember that if they haven't stuck around, they're not worth sticking around for. You made new friends this year - and I hope, for my sake, they will be life long friends. You're a crazy friend to have - but that's good, because us other crazies need like minded people to talk to :D

The fact that you achieved your high school goal - the certificate of distinction - is a testimony to how well you've done. That is an achievement you should always look at, think for a moment, and then say to yourself "I AM GOD" - because you did do it, and that is pretty bloody awesome!

It's very hard to write to the 16 year old you - I have no idea how you've done it for 15 posts! - and to give advice , so I think I'll leave it with this:

Never stop being fearless. Never, ever stop being fearless.

Don't be afraid to think forward - it's far easier to be optimistic about the future than the past.

Oh, and never neglect the opportunity to ask out a hot Arab!

It has been an honour being your friend throughout your 16th year, and I look forward to being it in the 17th and many more years after that!

Now, go and turn 17 already!

Love,
오빠