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: 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?
Sometimes I tell my dog,
‘I love you, understand?’
I know she really doesn’t
But I take her waggy tail
as a reply.
And then they’re days I feel
that something much, much bigger
is giving me what’s best
And all I know is to
curse up towards the heavens
My very little version
of a waggy tail
Photo: Matese Fields
A stranger changed my life. Someone whose identity I’ve forgotten. I don’t remember the byline, neither do I remember his face in the pictures, but he’d single-handedly set me on a path I didn’t know I would take.
I was a hairdresser, going through the motions every day just to pay the bills. On a particularly quiet day, while I was flipping through all the FHM magazines, I came across this story about an unfit writer’s journey to fighting an amateur boxing match.
Photo: Simone Pellegrini
It takes 80,000 words to make a novel, about 10,000 words to be fluent in another language, and 52 kilometres of running to complete a marathon.
These are daunting figures in their own right, but perhaps less intimidating when viewed from this perspective: writing 250 words, learning one sentence, and running for 15 minutes each day.