anotherlongshot (anotherlongshot) wrote,

why some things matter, why some things don't.

I love Chinese New Year despite the uniform predictability of the things we do and for reasons that are entirely inexplicable and unexplainable. Attempting to explain to Kenneth, someone who doesn't care for Chinese New Year, why I love Chinese New Year produced only a lame, superficial answer: I love the idea of Chinese New Year. It's the only Chinese thing that hasn't been entirely polluted by the West.

And it's true, I think. Nothing happens during Chinese New Year. We do the same things every year such that there's no excitement or anticipation anymore whenever Chinese New Year rolls around. On the first day, the entire family goes to the cemetery in the morning to pay respects to my grandfather. Then everyone trucks to my grandma's house for lunch, after which we head off to a relative's house where we sit around and make polite, mostly superficial conversation. After that's done, we go home. End of Day One. The second day comprises of everyone heading to my aunt's house for lunch, and on the third day everyone comes to my house for dinner. End of Chinese New Year visitations. It's honestly rather boring and nothing happens and I do nothing and it's like watching paint dry in different houses...but I still love Chinese New Year anyway.

Of course, the money is a very good reason to look forward to the holiday. It's about the only time in the entire year during which money pretty much falls from the sky and into my lap. And there's the new clothes to look forward to, buying a damn nice dress and saving it for Chinese New Year, and feeling all excited about wearing the nice dress when Chinese New Year rolls around.

Maybe these are superficial things. But embedded in the seeming superficiality of wanting desperately to wear a new dress is a sense, however slight, of tradition that I subconsciously buy into. The thought of wearing something that I've worn before on the first two days of Chinese New Year is utterly sacrilegious to me. And even though I wore a black dress on Day 2, I did it with much reluctance and out of desperation because I couldn't bear the thought of wearing an old top with a new skirt as the top I bought for the new skirt didn't match after all. At least, I thought, the black dress was new, and at least I attempted to make it less black by tying some random sash around it. My mom almost didn't let me out of the house; she wanted me to change into another dress I have that is, according to her, at least vaguely sparkly. But I told her, No! I've worn that before!

Do I understand what I'm doing though? Not really. Of course, at the most obvious level the whole idea of wearing new clothes on Chinese New Year is to embrace the new year and all the new possibilities and opportunities that come along with it, and discard the old problems and worries of the previous year. That's really about as far as I understand it though. And I must say, even if I'm wrong, what I think it means is really, really meaningful.

I'm not sure if it's not schizophrenic, though, celebrating a "new" year in the middle of February. It is the new year in the lunar calendar, but no one really follows it anymore. I know I don't. I know I attempted to keep up with it, seven years ago, but I lost count halfway and there was no lunar calendar around to get me back on track and after a while I lost interest and the effort petered off into nothingness. And I haven't attempted it ever since.

Somehow I feel the need to cling on, perhaps in futility, to whatever Chineseness I've got left, even if I scarcely understand it. S!mon T@y subscribes to the idea that culture is plastic and invented, that it's constantly changing and morphed by the political elites - but even if this is true, and I do see the force and the attraction in his argument, it's still extremely important to me that I don't abandon my Chinese roots, that I figure out what it means to be Chinese living in a largely-Westernised world (assuming that the two are mutually exclusive, and that there's such a thing as the "Western world", two assumptions which I would definitely challenge in an academic paper of sorts and which I don't necessarily believe). For now, that translates to a sense of utter incomprehension at Chinese friends who don't buy new clothes for Chinese New Year and who don't go home for dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year. My heart truly goes out to those hundreds of thousands of people in China who were stranded in railway stations by the snow storm, unable to go home for the New Year. I see my family every day and the possibility of having Islamic Law class on New Year's Eve at 6.30 p.m. was enough to make me take up my case in arms to the administration, and thankfully class was rescheduled. If you ask me to explain why it matters, all I can tell you is, It matters because it's tradition. The inevitable circularity of my reasoning isn't hard to deduce, I'm sure, and it doesn't leave me with any easy explanation.

But that's okay, I think. Not everything has to be explained away with cold, hard logic; some things just are. This is one of those things.


On another note, Friday night was definitely memorable. Chloe, Rui and I watched Sweeney Todd at Marina Square, which we all found severely lacking; we all agreed that the singing was horrific. After the movie we headed to this Spanish restaurant/bar establishment for some food and drinks. I had three slices of what was essentially garlic bread, a Midori martini which was fdisgusting, followed by a Sex on the Beach. (When ordering our second drinks, Rui pointed to me and said, "She's a Sex on the Beach." I affirmed that and said, "I'm a Sex on the Beach." I paused, thought about it, and was like, "That's kind of hot." Chloe and Rui nearly died.) The second drink was to make up for the shitty first drink. And it was a really really really bad decision. I ended up attempting to throw up in the toilet and spending a very long time sitting on the bowl and curing my immense stomach upset.

It was HORRENDOUS. It wasn't drunkenness or anything; I didn't even feel significantly tipsy. I really think it was the combination of all that I ingested and none of it agreed with each other. Thankfully Rui and Chloe stayed with me while I attempted to make myself feel better, hence causing Chloe to miss the last bus home. My folks called twice and Chloe told them that I was sick and therefore I got my parents to pick us up from the Esplanade at 12.30 a.m.

I'm horrible and I have the best parents Ever. How ironic, I think, that when Kenneth told me about how his friend got her parents to pick them up from the Esplanade at the same time, possibly from another rather far away place, I was all, "Wah lau, I could never do that!" Yeah right, Yelen. In my defence, I really felt like hell. I'm sure I told Rui and Chloe a few times that I wanted to die. The stomach ache came intermittently and I felt all menstrual cramp-y - which subsequently made sense the next day when I got my period. Ah well.

More importantly though, the conversation over food and drinks was great. I felt like I purged all the crap I needed to purge, from a nasty surprise on Facebook which was surprising because of how it affected me, to what really happened in the past. Though I think it's got to a point where I don't remember what I told people, which I think is good. I don't think about it much anymore, the past. I'm not ashamed of anything I did and I don't regret anything. Mostly I just don't give a damn. And if I ever find myself contemplating whether I should get into a serious relationship with someone, I think I would choose to trust my friends' instincts over my own. I haven't proved to be very trustworthy so far, have I?

Rui said, Intelligence is overrated. At first, I didn't really think so. I've always cited intelligence as something I look for in a guy and I've always been attracted to vastly intelligent guys (though my first two boyfriends don't really prove that very well). But I thought about it when I got home and I think she's right in a couple of ways. First, being in law school exposes me to all sorts of intelligent people - the types that are intelligent, but can't express it, the types that sound intelligent, but are really rather shallow and dull, and the types that sound intelligent and are intelligent. In short, intelligence, the state of being intelligent, the display of one's intelligence - it's the norm in law school. And I can't quite say that it fires up any sort of passion or excitement in me anymore, because I'm so used to it that it's ceased to be intriguing.

Second, and more relevantly to myself, the extent to which I exalt another person's intelligence is very telling of the extent to which I exalt - or don't exalt - my own. The other person's intelligence only matters that much when I stop believing in my own; that's when I look to the other person and subconsciously live vicariously through him. I look up to him because he has what I don't - or so I think.

Or, more accurately, so I thought. A person can package his ideas very well, but maybe his ideas are shit. Just because something sounds good, doesn't mean that it's good, and it certainly doesn't mean that it's better than what you can come up with. You can't out-argue someone who's naturally eloquent if you're not a speaking person, but you sure as hell can out-write that person anytime, anyday - and I believe this to be true for a lot of the very eloquent people that I encounter in class. People who speak well usually can't write well and people who write well usually can't speak well. I know I belong to the latter category. I would love to be someone who can write well and speak well, but I know that I'm not a good speaker at all. But it doesn't mean that I'm dumber than the person who speaks better than me. It doesn't mean, therefore, that he should be elevated to a position where he becomes the sun around which I'm orbiting - because that is plainly ridiculous for anyone who has half a functioning brain and pride in herself.

Intelligence is still extremely important to me; I'm not about to go out with someone who's fucking stupid. But when someone asks me what I see in a guy I'm seeing, the first thing that comes out of my mouth will no longer be, "He's very smart." Because a smart person does not a good boyfriend make. Being smart has nothing to do with being a good boyfriend. (Being smart has nothing to do with being a good girlfriend either, of course.) It's a prerequisite to be sure, but it's no longer the defining reason for liking someone. It doesn't compel him to do nice things for you just because, it doesn't inspire gentlemanly behaviour, and it doesn't make him any more considerate than someone of lesser intelligence. All these things aren't borne out of intelligence. I can't believe I never knew this.

Also, I would love to be in Chloe's shoes. I'm idealistic about a lot things, but the one thing which I've constantly been very cynical towards is love. The love stories I write never have happy endings, and the love poems I write are inspired by break-ups. I told Kenneth that I don't believe in love anymore. It would be nice to believe, but it's hard to go back to the beginning when the one time that I believed it existed and believed in it eventually exploded in my face. And so I reach the conclusion that it's not worth it.

Kenneth is really sweet though. I can't really name specific things; it's just who he is. Mag and I agreed that whoever he chooses to date will be a super duper lucky girl because he's just so nice and considerate and not slimy. I haven't known him for even a year but he's really a very important person in my life, a good friend whom I will miss next year when he goes on exchange - for a year. Sigh.

We had lunch at Aerin's on Wednesday that came up to like $70 in total, OMG, then bussed back to Bukit Timah's Coffee Bean, and as usual it was fun. He almost choked on his coffee when I mused about becoming an academic. He was all, "But you hate studying. And you're lazy." His faith in me is really bloody overwhelming, I tell you.

So the week has been good, more than good, spending it with people that matter very much to me, my family and friends. My mom, brother, his friend and I went to Chinatown on New Year's Eve and I almost choked to death on the disgusting human stench. It was SO CROWDED. We left really quickly because no one wanted to brave the crowd. And my family and I went to the National Museum on Friday to see the Greek stuff from the Louvre. It was packed and I almost died. I don't understand the point of bringing your toddlers to the museum but that's another rant for another day. What made me really happy, though, was sitting down at Novus (the museum cafe) after with four drinks and one tiny pizza. The four of us. Usually it's my parents and me sans my brother, sometimes it's just my mom and me, but he was there that day and those fifteen, twenty minutes there were just really nice.

I think my parents are amazing people. Maybe they're too forgiving of the crap that we pull - and we've pulled a lot of crap between us over the years, my brother and I - but they're not demanding parents. They expect the bare minimum parents should expect of their children, taking into account their natural abilities and acquired skills, and nothing more. I'm sure they hope for more; it's natural to hope and to want. And maybe I'm saying this because I'm doing Law and not Literature, but I don't feel pressured to meet their expectations...anymore? I would say 'anymore' but I'm not sure if I knew what my parents expected of me back then. I think being in Law has exceeded their expectations of me and maybe that's why I feel like they'll be happy with whatever I do. But then again, maybe that's because I've told them that I don't want to work in a small firm and that the firm that I think I might possibly want to go to is a medium-to-large firm. I'm not sure they'll quite feel the same way if I told them that I wanted to drop out of law school - but even I think that it's an utterly stupid thing to do, to drop out, when you're so close to the finishing line and when you're in a position that the average person would love to be in. (I know it's not about living other people's dreams but your own, but this is how I see it.)

Whatever it is, they don't pressure me and they don't expect me to achieve miracles and be a millionaire in ten years' time. They're only disappointed in my achievements and what I fail to achieve when I display the same disappointment. And they're also amazing people because they extend their kindness and generosity to people whom they don't necessarily like or have to be kind to. And for that I really admire them.

I suspect, too, that as long as I do well in something, it doesn't matter what it is that I'm doing. Seriously, my dad's whole vendetta against me doing a Lit degree was the fact that it's not exactly a cash-spinning machine and I've told him that I don't want to teach (I don't). In many ways, I'm glad that I'm doing what I'm doing now instead of what I could have done. I don't have to worry about not finding a job, or not finding a well-paying job. There are always other things to worry and bitch about, of course, like the long hours and the not-high-enough salary that doesn't quite compensate for the long hours; but it could be worse. And I'm pretty chill with where I am right now.


On another note, I'm reading Kate Atkinson's Emotionally Weird and I'm quite sad to say that it's utterly boring. I've read a little over half of the book and I still can't discern a plot. Even worse? The narrator has no personality. I have no idea what's going on. I'm only reading it now and trying to finish it because I want to read something else, dammit.

I never finished Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5 though, which I also find uncompelling. But I might go back to it. See how it goes.

I watched The Covenant on DVD with my brother last night and it was utter shit. I wanted to watch Chace Crawford, my Gossip Girl boyfriend, because he's so pretty, but he had like five lines in the entire crap-ass movie. What the hell. And no one in the movie could act. Worst of all? The boys weren't THAT cute. What a complete waste of time.

I shall attempt to prepare for the last Islamic Law class tomorrow...soon. Kenneth is right: I hate studying and I'm lazy. Boo.

Lastly, I can't wait for Year 4 when everyone will be back because I miss all my friends! Mag, obviously, Tris, Kyle, Kong, everyone! School's finally beginning to feel really empty without them. At the same time, I don't bloody want to graduate. I had a nightmare in which it was the absolute last day of school and I was feeling damn shit and sad throughout. How sad and how scary.

Tags: being chinese, books, chinese new year, chloe, family, friends, kenneth, love, movies, personal, relationships, rui

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