Eleven days between posts is not how it’s supposed to be. I know.
I am writing this whilst having my hair cut instead of having my lunch. I am sacrificing lunch hour and nutrition to feel better because this week has not been good. Last month I confirmed that shopping is therapeutic, so with (or without) a bit of logic I went straight to thinking that a haircut would fix my week.
Fixing a problem without knowing what it is does not make any sense. But this is how I am right now. I can’t do anything more than one day at a time and sometimes even that is too much.
Last night. An absolutely beautiful and filled-with-laughter evening with the filmmaker. A couple of gin and tonics, with lime, no lemon. Club 71 welcomes familiar faces once again. I felt so good. About everything. But then I left. Crossing the harbor made it all come undone. It was a mistake, I said.
In a span of two minutes, I went from pure happiness to murderous rage. An emotional meltdown, complete falling apart. He stood in front of me, and as his face changed, I knew I crossed the line. There’s always a line. But he understood, I don’t even know how. It’s an ordeal and it exhausts me.
I search and yearn for simplicity, but I can’t relax. I haven’t been taught to relax. To slow down, to go easy. Not to be so hard with myself. Physical manifestation of stress isn’t supposed happen at twenty-three years of age. So many things were not meant to happen, but they still did. I battled through most of them with little to no harm, but some left scars that haven’t even begun to heal yet. I complicate things when they can be simple.
But as it turns out, a good haircut is all a girl needs to turn her week around.
I’m grateful for the days when my skin is clear, itch-free and smooth. There are two such days in a month. If I’m lucky.
I’m grateful for simple things of quality; Rwandan coffee that I brought with me last month, a handmade ceramic mug I found at a flea market, paper-beaded necklaces, a good pair of classic leather shoes. Everything is one of a kind, but it’s all I need.
Sunrises. Glorious, winter sunsets. Feeling the sun on my back. Sun, in general.
Coconut oil. Weird thing to be grateful for, no? But it goes together with the first sentence.
Writers who write for themselves rather than for others.
Waking up and smiling first thing in the morning.
Late afternoon siestas.
Being able to express myself even when I don’t know how.
Kennedy Town. Always now. We are dreaming of renting a flat around there and thus spending more time in the neighborhood. Mentally I am already pretending it’s mine.
Filmmaker’s flat is still a refuge, even after all these years, and he’s around there, too. Everything’s coming together slowly. In exactly a week, I am starting something new, which I should have done six months ago. I needed to walk the full circle first before realizing where my place was. I am learning the hard way: how not to be naïve. But it goes on.
A lot of things happened in the past month. It feels as though life was very slow for the first eleven months of last year and then everything happened at the same time. Now I’m coming down; letting the dust settle. I realized what was preventing me from writing and it surprised me because it is the reason I would least expect. The feeling that I have to censor myself. I wrote differently five years ago and I miss that. I am battling with my own passivity and ambivalence. But I don’t think there is a way to return to that. I lost my voice in the process of forming it and without it, I’m lifeless.
I’m taking my time. This month is for reflecting, improving, making plans, writing them down. It’s for realization of potential. I don’t believe in resolutions and new beginnings. New year, new you.I believe in listening to yourself. To your heartbeat, your body and your mind. Paying attention to what works and what doesn’t. Seeing the signs in the wind. Noticing the details and being able to decipher what they mean. A little bit like navigating the winds of the ocean, sailing. Smooth waters never made a good sailor. I am embracing the difficult, the hard and the impossible. I’m breaking it down to what works for me instead of setting unrealistic goals and expectations.
I’m exploring Hong Kong in way I haven’t before. I’m exploring a new way of living in a sense. I’m looking at natural, simple, minimalistic. Everything that isn’t good for me is getting eliminated. Everything. Negative influences, stressful situations, the unpleasant. I’m choosing the places I frequent, things I purchase and things that I let close to me more carefully. Being mindful is not easy.
I’m looking at things with a fresh set of eyes and it feels so good.
Two things have been impossible: sitting down and writing.
Every time I try, I get distracted after a few minutes. I check my email, social media, I click through random items in my news feed or I suddenly remember that now, when I am supposed to be writing, is the time to make my laptop unusable by upgrading software or backing it up. In other words, I have been avoiding writing altogether. It needs to stop.
It’s been a struggle getting back into the daily groove of Hong Kong. I am persistently absent in my mind. Wandering around, never really here, or there. Sometimes I lose track of where I am. Sometimes I forget. I’m trying. But guess what, I don’t think the answer is hiding for me on a lifestyle Pinterest board. Sometimes I get carried away and spend hours browsing through other people’s lives instead of living mine.
I made an attempt to write a list of 52 things I wanted to accomplish this year, one for each week, but I stopped halfway because I ran out of things I wanted to accomplish. This has made me feel like shit as a result, because ultimately it makes me think I am not ambitious enough. I wanted to start another 52 weeks photography project, but before I could realize it, the first week of the year has gone by. And I am not going to start by cheating. You see it’s not for me. Resolutions, weekly things, et cetera. I don’t do well with templates and pre-organized things. I have never been able to start writing, and write well, by using those one-line writing prompts. At the moment, I am subscribed to half a dozen different writing prompts newsletters that I never open. Because for me, it just doesn’t work. I completed mindful mondays last year, but even then, it did not feel real. And I need the real thing.
So I will do what I did last year. Because it worked. Because I can’t be forced into anything. I need to learn to embrace myself instead of working against myself. In order to find my own voice, I need to listen to it first.
Write; every day (if possible). Document life.
Only do things that feel right.
Be grateful for what I have.
Call grandparents more often.
Take care of myself; eat well, sleep more.
Nurture the people I love.
Slow down & focus.
Grow, blossom, fly. (In order words, feel good.)
I am reaching out to my roots. To simplicity. I am one for subtle details and modesty. I would like to strip myself from the illusions of superficial anything. Beliefs and traditions alike. 2014 was character-affirming, but more than anything else, it was an outline of what life could be.
I realized I was under incredible pressure to succeed in the world, to make it further than I could have ever imagined, to acquire an empire of knowledge at my disposal and to live life to the fullest. And all of that. But maybe I wanted something else. Maybe I needed something simple.
Last month I traveled to East Africa and I was reminded of everything that was once lost. The hunger for life and energy to thrive. To create and exchange positive energy with family, friends, and strangers. We’ve lost it. We’ve lost so much in the digital age; it’s frightening. I slowed down without realizing it and it was only then that life took a distinctive form for me. Suddenly I knew what I wanted. I digress.
Every day I took a motocab across the city. There’s no chaos in Kigali. The landscape was incredibly lush with greenery, softened with rising red dust. Children laughed and smiled everywhere I went. Rwandans are a profoundly kind and polite nation. I became even more aware of the Western misconception of the African continent. I felt free and light in Rwanda. Colors of the earth and the sky captivated me. I loved the sunset and the wind cooling down. Temperatures would drop below twenty degrees and every breath I took hit my lungs. I realized I lived in a world of grey and gloom and that I needed to get out of it. That there was more to life than what I had been limiting myself to. I needed to free myself.
Twenty-fourteen only began making sense to me in the last two weeks of the year. In reflection, I took every opportunity as it came, I made changes. I am at peace. I feel grounded. It’s a strange thing. I also changed my career path a little, ventured out on my own. I created my own opportunities. I decided that I had no reason to not feel accomplished. When it feels like I have no support, I still have it.
I loved being in Rwanda. I woke up with the sun each morning. I slept under a mosquito net, but there were no mosquitos. Not a single bite while I was there. Instead of instant coffee, I brew a proper cup of Rwandan roast. Sometimes French press, sometimes I cooked the coffee Turkish style, heavy on the sugar. Outside the living room, through the sliding door that lead onto a veranda, I sat in a hammock for at least half an hour. It was my morning ritual that I formed on the first day. The dogs kept me company for as long as I was interesting to them. I would talk to them as if they could respond. But they understood me. They could sense everything. They sensed my loneliness, my feeling of out of place. In the kitchen, I liked to look out the window for a while. Watch the sun, pay attention to the light, sounds. But it was always so quiet. Literally silent. No sounds of traffic or city rush. None of that. Only the sky, the sun, and the wind. And the space. There is space in Africa.
Every morning, every day, like this. I thought I didn’t need anything else.
But then it hit me. What I really wanted in life. I wanted the quiet, the sky and the kind people. I wanted the best coffee in the world. I wanted to breathe fresh air and eat only the freshest produce. I wanted to work on my own, write and create. Always create. I wanted simplicity. I wanted good quality for what it’s worth, not for what capitalism and free economy dictate. I wanted a full life that wasn’t controlled by materialism. But mostly, I craved simplicity.
By the second week, it all made sense to me. What I was going to do. What would come next. I realized that I needed to free myself. I needed to be free in order to move forward. Maybe freedom is making a choice with all your heart, knowing everything that you know and having everyone stand against you, and still being convinced that it is the right decision. That kind of thing takes guts. Maybe that’s freedom. The hope for this year is to find out.