Photo: Kelly Sikkema
“I think we should break up.”
“Right,” I said. I slipped the paper rose I’d been hiding back into my pocket.
“I just want to be honest,” Lana said. She pointed out the main entrance of the shopping mall, where her new boyfriend was waiting in his car. “It’s just that he has… you know… and you don’t… you know…”
Money, she meant money. To be fair, it was one of the most honest breakups I’d ever had to endure. You had to give her credit for that.
“I get it,” I said. “Okay then. Guess I gotta go back to work.”
“You’re not mad?”
Mad? She’d been hanging out with this guy all week, told me he was just a friend she hadn’t met in a while, was breaking up with me for him, and they were heading off on a date right after this, while I’d have to spend the remaining hours of my shift dealing with customers trying to haggle a couple bucks off our pirated Playstation 2 games.
Photo: Rob Walsh
Like many of you, I had no shortage of ambitions growing up, each promising their own little umbrella of possibilities. And if life turned out for you the same way it did for me, these dreams probably petered out and died through the ravages of adulthood.
We’ve probably even shared ambitions as kids: fireman, lawyer, scientist. But as I entered my teenage years, I’d realise that my dreams would take a turn for the grandiose.
Photo: Alvaro Serrano
Think about getting off your chair right now and doing thirty minutes’ worth of bodyweight exercises. Think about writing a book. Think about picking the salad instead of that pizza you were craving.
Chances are, you probably have a long list of things you’d rather do, and why shouldn’t you? None of those ideas seem like fun, even if they’re already part of your routine.
Yet these are the types of tasks we wish we could do to replace our Netflix binges and nights out drinking. They’re just boring as hell to get started on.
So let me offer you a way out.
Photo: Isaac Smith
I remember the first time my ex-girlfriend took me to a proper hair salon. It wasn’t something I was ready to do when I was nineteen and broke, but she said she’d pay, so I went.
It was the first time I didn’t get a haircut alongside Old Master Q comics and Japanese hairstyle magazines. They even served tea and actually washed my hair, something I wasn’t used to, having grown up with Indian barbers or those dingy places where the aunts in flip-flops looked more like they belonged on the set of Kung Fu Hustle than at the salon.
Photo: Nadim Merrikh
“I don’t want a promotion, I just want to write. But I could still use the raise,” I said.
“Hm, not quite what I expected, but I’d be glad to do that,” said Margaret. She moved her hands from a steeple under her chin to put them palm-down on the table. “I guess that settles it. Thanks for coming in!”
“You know what?” I said. “Actually, I think I’d rather not work. But if you could just mail my cheque every month, that’ll be great.”
“Hm. Now that’s something I’ll have to look into.”
I leaned forward, my own hands gripping the edge of her desk. I tried to calm my pacing heart. Was this it? “Are you telling me you won’t do it?”
Photo: Jeffrey F Lin
People like to throw around the phrase ‘keep showing up’ as if it’s the solution to everything. Want to finally finish that novel? Just keep showing up. Earn a gold medal in your sport? Keep showing up. Trying to perfect that hard guitar solo? Keep. Showing. Up.
The thing about this advice is that it’s pretty easy to categorise it as cliché, a hackneyed term that somewhat inspires but lacks in lustre thanks to its overuse. It’s one of those phrases that belong with ‘Fake it till you make it’ and ‘There are plenty of fish in the sea’.
The thing is though, is that while it sounds simple, it does hold a certain truth. Of course, you’ll always run the risk of not achieving the thing you set out for, but if it were that easy, you probably wouldn’t even want it.
Photo: Remi Jacquaint
I’d like to think I have a universal face. That’s probably the reason why people tend to speak to me in their mother tongue at first meet. I’ve been mistaken for a Filipino, Thai, even Vietnamese, but I seldom get people speaking to me in Chinese, which actually makes up half of what I am.
As a result, what’s supposed to be just a transactional conversation often turns into a tactical decision. Should I continue speaking to them in Malay, or do I reply in Chinese and risk a follow-up conversation that I don’t have the energy for?