Have you ever watched a movie more than two hundred times? I have. The Matrix was released at a time when the internet had yet to bloom, where the best accompaniment to lunches and dinners were two-disced VCDs.
I can’t explain my intrigue. I had memorised the script by heart, but I was still mesmerised by the story of it all. Maybe it was the first time I ever questioned the meaning of consciousness. Perhaps I had an affinity to bullet-time. Maybe I just liked the wardrobe. One thing was for sure, I couldn’t get enough of The Matrix.
I came up with a theory for my obsession, reasoning that I loved the satisfaction I got out of every screening. Behind every “I know kung-fu” and “Dodge this” was an emotional kick I couldn’t get in real life.
That’s my last memory of revisiting stories, and I’ve never rewatched a movie or reread a book since. Recently, however, I’ve entertained the thought on my voluntary participation in Groundhog Day when it comes to my work life—entry level and unfulfilled.
I’ve given hairdressing a fair shot, dabbled in accounting, even took a chance in publishing, but it seems like I’ve always chosen to remain at the bottom rung of the corporate hierarchy.
Barely half a year into my third writing gig, I had begun to question my place in the publishing industry. Had my previous experiences been a lie? Was I really that bad a writer? Was I doomed to mediocrity all my life?
I’ve blindly pursued the saying ‘do something you love for a living and you’ll never work a day in your life’ and was beginning to learn that making a career out of your hobby was a surefire way to stifle the sails of your passion.
It’s like setting your favourite song as your morning alarm; you figure you can’t get enough of your number one track, and before long, Hey Jude begins to remind you of the shitty commute you’ve to face every day.
So I decided to approach Irene, my former editor—someone who’s been writing for a long time and would probably have the answers to my questions—for some advice. I was going to ask her the stupid questions a wronged lover would:
We’ve never used condoms, but maybe the opened wrapper under our bed was from our past romps? She was probably joking with her guy friend when she messaged him ‘I wanna take you on the table’, right?
Most of the time, we already know the answer; we just want the reassurance.
Do I really suck at writing? I wanted to ask Irene. Did I get ahead of myself when I applied for my first publishing gig?
“It’s normal,” I imagined her saying. “You just have to keep at it.”
Then the day came where I was sitting across her over a couple cups of coffee.
“So. To what do I owe this pleasure to?” Irene asked.
Irene held up a finger. “Before that, let’s take a picture.” She flipped out her phone and passed it to an unknowing passerby. “This is for Simon. He’d love to know that you’re here right now.”
“Yeah, this guy, he likes your work. Says he wants to write like you. He even follows your blog!”
In that instant, I felt a weird stir of emotions. This stranger had given me what the publishing world could not. After we took the picture, Irene sent it off into the ether of Whatsapp. She laughed before she could finish her second message.
“He says, ‘Damn it! Tell him I said hi.'” Irene showed me the message as if I hadn’t listened. “What brings you here by the way?”
“I… nothing, really. Just wanted to check on how you were doing.”
A writer friend of mine once told me how jaded she’s grown towards the industry, stating how writing for a living doesn’t necessarily intersect with writing what you love. She said, “If I never really make it in publishing but my writing reaches one person, just the one, then it’ll all be worth it.”
This blog celebrated its second year last month, and so far, it’s been an unrewarding journey interspersed with the occasional praise. What Simon said however, had changed all that.
So Simon, this one’s for you. I haven’t had the privilege to meet you, and I don’t know if you’ll read this, but you’re one of the reasons why I’ve kept grinding. It’s a memory I’ll keep revisiting throughout my lifetime, and it’ll probably be more than a mere two hundred times.