anotherlongshot (anotherlongshot) wrote,

Some Jumbled Thoughts on Identity (And Other Matters)

My chapter 3/Yale paper is killing me. I haven't seen anyone since I saw Matt on Tuesday; the only people that I've talked to are the housekeeper, the tennis coach, the woman that I partnered today at tennis class, and the people at Fitzbillies. John wanted to come to the Magdalene library yesterday; I told him that I had to focus and so would rather be alone. Matt wanted to have lunch with me today; I told him that I'd just cooked and even though I would love to see him, I didn't have the time. There is no way that I can submit this paper on Sunday, the deadline. Hopefully I can submit it by the end of Monday. I guess the bright side is that I have finally reached the final argument and I have a vague idea of how to present it. It should be interesting to write it tomorrow, and hopefully I can finish it tomorrow.

Some random thoughts:

1. I really didn't want to go to tennis class today. I didn't sleep well last night, kept waking up because I had this sensation that I kept almost falling off the bed, and woke up with my back in pain thanks to the shit mattress. My alarm went off at 7.30am. I got out of bed at 8.20am, and the only reason I did was because tennis was at 9.30am and I needed 20 minutes to walk to the club, and at least 30 minutes for breakfast and 10 minutes to get dressed and all, and so I was already super late. But it turned out to be quite nice to hit some balls amidst the stress of the week, especially since I haven't played tennis since Sunday because of the stress of the week. I've been feeling like I'm getting sick of tennis lately for whatever reason, but whenever I'm on court and hitting a ball, it reminds me of why I like it, so I guess it's a momentary thing.

2. I just found out 30 minutes ago that the second word of my name means 'storm' in Japanese. It is so cool. It means something considerably more peaceful in Chinese: mist, specifically mountain mist. The contrast is interesting, isn't it?

3. I re-watched Chungking Express last night. I first watched it when I was 17 or 18 and I've named it as one of my favourite films ever since. It's whimsical and evocative, and I still enjoyed it, but my old age has diluted my ability to suspend disbelief (which is very necessary for this film) and so I found the second story involving Faye Wong and Tony Leung too unreal to the point of being a bit annoying. Still, it's a great film. And because there was too much Cantonese in the second half and not enough Mandarin, I'm going to watch a Taiwanese film tonight, right after I post this and shower.

4. Relatedly, I don't mean to be rude or ethnocentric (Mando-centric?) but Mandarin is really the best Chinese dialect, isn't it? It is so lyrical. The contrast between Mandarin and Cantonese is especially acute in Chungking Express, and Mandarin is simply vastly superior in how it sounds.

5. Finally, my PhD has reminded me of my struggle with culture and identity while growing up. I found it confusing to be ethnic Chinese but to have a native command of English and an in-depth knowledge of English culture (especially literature), but not a native command of Chinese and any sort of non-superficial knowledge of the Chinese culture (especially literature) that hasn't been transmitted through customs and practices. I think this is why I identify most strongly as Singaporean even though I've never really felt a comfortable sense of belonging in Singapore: I need to identify with something. But more charitably, it is a legitimate source of identity; there is a distinct Singaporean culture that has shaped my sense of who I am in a meaningful way, even if my moral and political views are fundamentally different from the typical Singaporean ones (as it were). But it was never enough growing up. Of course, I rebelled against the identity as I rebelled against everything that was a given, and so I tried to connect with my ethnic Chinese identity. But I've never truly succeeded. How could I have, when I'd never read the classic Chinese literature texts, when my command of Chinese was poor and still is, when I relied on Jay Chou's songs and lyrics to improve my Chinese? I am not sure what it means that, even though my command of English is far superior to the average native speaker's, and my knowledge and love for English literature far deeper than the average English person's, I will never, EVER identify as English. There is nothing about me that is English - absolutely nothing. At the same time, I don't feel a sense of shared fate with the ethnic Chinese community. I am downright hostile to people from China (this is bad but it's not untrue), I can't relate to people from Hong Kong, the only reason I can sort of relate to people from Taiwan is because I am part Taiwanese, and I can relate to Chinese Malaysians because they are close to Singapore. I have not met enough 'Western' ethnic Chinese people to know if I can relate to them; probably, right? I would probably have a bit more in common with them than people from China.

I don't know. It is difficult. I don't understand how it can be enough for John to identify as a progressive. Obviously, I consider myself a liberal, but my political identity is so thin because its grounded practically everywhere such that it is rooted absolutely nowhere. More importantly, it is only a part of who I am, and probably not even the top 5 most important part. I don't know what is most important.

Anyway. I am tired of writing. I want to turn off my brain and watch a movie.

6. Lastly, today marked the end of my two-week no-processed-sugar diet, and I celebrated by eating Wei-Yun's chocolate cake and a brownie from Fitzbillies. SO DELICIOUS. I am meeting John for cake tomorrow morning so I'll continue my celebration with a Guinness chocolate cake from Afternoon Tease. Can't wait!
Tags: being chinese, food, friends, movies, personal, phd, playing tennis, singapore

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