half past seven

it’s been long since i put anything up here – it’s not that i have nothing to write about, but i don’t think i quite know how to put these feelings into words, accurately. just read through a bunch of my old posts and it brings a myriad of emotions – things can get so different with each day.

this morning i’m sitting in a relatively empty starbucks with my china green tips by my right hand and piles of work by my left. this morning i decided i wasn’t going to make through school, so here i am. people deserve breaks… right? except i’m not sure what i did to deserve this, actually.

last night i was thinking about things and kind of concluded that i don’t know what i’m fighting for anymore – what i’m getting past each day for anymore. as a Christian i know, it’s fighting for His glory, and from His victory and for something greater than myself. but it’s easy to say it but difficult to… feel it. and last night i just felt really empty, and really really exhausted.

i always say to fight for yourself – because at the day you will really, only have yourself left. i always am the pragmatic one – life doesn’t wait for you to wallow and get a grip, it moves on with or without you. and if you choose to spend time wallowing in self pity, that’s just wasted time that will never come back. and whether you like it or not, this is your life to live and you have to fight to survive. life goes on – there will still be essays to write, assignments to submit, issues to resolve, people to handle – whether you’re sad or not. these are things i tell myself everyday, to try and get myself out of that rut. being sad is a waste of time, i say.

but i’m not even sure if i want to fight anymore. it’s not that my life is so utterly depressing (yes, i know a whole ton of people who have it way worse) that i actively want to leave. it’s just a passive feeling of… not minding if i had to leave now. it’s not that life isn’t good, or life isn’t happy. there are moments i love, moments i feel happy to be alive. but these moments are fleeting, and i don’t really think i can bring myself to fight for them.

i’ve lost a lot of zest, i feel. i still want to change the world, a bit, a little at a time. but i don’t think i can anymore, and i don’t think i can find the energy to anymore.

and if i were to leave the only thing i’d possibly regret is the confusion i leave behind for the people who love me, and the people i love. the possible questions they may have about what they could have done, should have done and would have done. because i know they never could have done anything, that would have helped at all. and that’s okay, because their love makes all the difference – their love makes up the happy moments where i’m happy to be alive. it just isn’t enough. not that their love isn’t enough, but me – i’m not enough. i don’t want them to ever feel guilt.

this got quite depressing. i’m okay, promise.

on youth

i can’t remember why i suddenly thought of things this way – i think it was a trigger by ps dan, when he mentioned how proud he was of us as youths, or something along the lines of that. but recently i just started thinking of things this way – and it scares me. we’re not going to be young forever.

and, we’re not that young anymore. i’m seventeen. i’ll turn twenty in three years and before i know it i’ll be an adult, going out to the real world, facing real responsibilities, etcetera. not that our current worries and current responsibilities aren’t real, but yknow. you’re not going to have this idealism and energy in you forever. these big dreams you have now – they’ll probably die out, in the face of reality. yes, i complain about being lethargic and losing zest for life all the time – but one day you are going to be so tired of things and stuck in an even more mundane cycle than you are in now. one day you’ll probably lose this excitement you have for life.

of course i hope not, and of course i’ll try my best to make sure i don’t. i’ll pursue things i love, i’ll do things i enjoy, i’ll try my best to keep my life exciting but let’s be real – it will get more difficult. and that scares me, so much. maybe because i look back on my seventeen years of life and realize i haven’t done many things that i think i’ll look back fondly on. i haven’t done enough stupid things. i haven’t had enough fun. i haven’t been unafraid enough. there’s so many more things i want to do – i’m not sure what, but just so many things.

i’m afraid, because your youth is just going to slip through your fingers and i don’t want to have nothing to remember. is it not scary? one day you won’t be able to make stupid decisions anymore. all these foolish decisions, silly feelings, big dreams you have right now – they are decisions and feelings of youth. they’re not going to stay with you forever. ten years down the road there’s no way you’re going to find the energy to EC ten guys and talk about them all day. or the energy to find tiny faults in your friendships and ponder on them all night. you probably won’t have the energy to change the world anymore.  when you mess up a presentation it’s probably going to be a big thing (who knows, maybe you’ll get fired) and not something to laugh about anymore.

i sound terribly pragmatic, terribly realist, but that’s the truth. of course i hope i won’t grow up to be a pragmatic working adult who just gets through her 9-5 life without living life. but the chances of that are pretty high, all things considered. so i really want to treasure the now. i’m not young anymore.

this fear isn’t a “oh dear life sucks” kind of fear, or a self-pitying kind of fear, but it’s a real fear. too real. i’m not sad, not at all. there’s nothing to be sad about; nothing about growing old, reaching new seasons and creating fresh experiences. i’m scared – because i’ll only be young once, and i really, really want to be able to live life unafraid while i still can. youth is something beautiful, and i want mine to be beautiful too.

on bad days

on bad days i write and hope someone out there will read what i write – and maybe relate, maybe care. on bad days i stuff my face with calorie-laden snacks and eat cookie butter from the jar and then step onto the weighing scale, frighten myself with a number and promise not to do this ever again. on bad days i attempt to sleep it off and then realize sometimes it doesn’t work.

i haven’t had a bad day in a long time – bad times yes, low moments yes, but days not really. today i felt quite lost. maybe it’s because i haven’t spent time alone in a long time, and i’m just not used to it. maybe it’s because there’s really too much going on.

today i had a meal with myself, hopped onto one of those buses and took a long bus ride. i slept, i thought and i realized how empty i was. i don’t quite know who i am anymore – and i know that’s kind of okay, because hey we are just seventeen year olds (wow, i’m seventeen) trying to figure ourselves out, figure life out. but i don’t want to fall victim to circumstances and morph into someone i don’t recognize.

today someone that means a lot to me told me: “tiff you’re changing so much it’s scaring me” my heart broke. change is okay, because people change but when it’s the kind of change that scares those who love you i guess that’s something to worry about. it’s so easy to be caught up in life, caught up in the situation around us, caught up in the people around us – and lose ourselves. i don’t want to be that way; i really don’t.

today i don’t quite know who i am, or what i want. it scares me, not to know me. everyday i feel a bit of me slipping out of my hands – and the thing is the less i know me, the less i want people to know me too.

i see the walls i’ve built around me from people i love very much, i see the friendships i’ve lost over the years. not entirely my fault – not entirely anyone’s fault at all, because things just happen. these friendships aren’t lost with the snap of the fingers, overnight, because of an argument. these friendships slip through the gaps between your fingers like sand in your hands, and before you know it you only have a few grains left with you.

sometimes i think: maybe i didn’t put in enough effort. but i also am growing into a phase of learning that my few close friends are enough for me.

i’m not a social, popular person, and will never be, and i’ve never been one who is able to juggle many friendships. i mean of course it’s nice, to have acquaintances to say hi to and catch up with sometimes – i do that too, and i like having acquaintances. it brings a little joy into my life but i constantly remind myself that two years from now that wouldn’t matter. so instead of putting in effort and spending time on these acquaintances why not i concentrate my energy on those that actually matter?

it’s a struggle, it is. because when you get caught up in the social situation and life everyone is supposed to have you feel like a few close friends isn’t enough. you feel like you need to have acquaintances, need to know people, need to be popular, etcetera. sometimes i feel that way, and then i remember that that’s not the kind of life i was made to live anyway, given my personality. at the end of the day my few close friends are enough for me, i think.

but the thing right now is: my close friends circle has just been growing smaller and smaller. some days i feel like – that’s great, because i’m learning to become more self-sufficient. but some days i’m afraid, because i’m sharing a lot less of who i am with the world. there’s no particular reason, i think – or at least not that i’m conscious of – but i’ve just been falling into a social recluse.

i know that’s supposedly okay, and it’s okay to be a private person, but sometimes i just feel like my heart is overflowing with so much to pour out and so much that i need to share but it can’t open. i’m not sure how to put it. maybe i’ll just wait, and let it seep through bit by bit. maybe someday i will shed it all.

also – people. people are confusing, people are complicated. jc’s introduced quite a number of new people in my life, but few that’ve shown to be significant. i’m quite a cynic when it comes to friendships – it takes me so much to grow into one and to trust – and i know that a ton of these friendships won’t last long past A levels. i know, it sounds awful. but the few are enough, i think.

sometimes a bit too much more than enough. i don’t quite want to give individuals too much power over shaping who i am, what i do and what i think about. it’s scary. at the same time fascinating, but i think i’m more afraid than anything. (i know, i fear a lot. i don’t want to be governed by fear either.)

i want to still be me. but before that let’s get to know me.

sorry this turned into a long incoherent ramble. i’m not this skeptical about the world, this fearful and this negative all the time, i promise. it’s just a bad day. bad days pass, i think. but i want to remember how every bad day feels.

hair for hope ’16: post-shave

i thought of writing a post straight after i shaved – or maybe one week after – but i decided to give it some time… also because i couldn’t sit myself down to write. i remember how i felt that day, i think. and the night before. night before i was very scared, very apprehensive, slightly annoyed at everyone who asked me how i felt because i just didn’t quite want to talk about it – the more i thought about it the more i was afraid.

that day: combing my hair for the last few times during physics tutorial, rushing down to MPH flustered with my best classmates (and thanks dad for coming) cuz everyone was texting me to ask where i was, not quite knowing how to feel… rushing to take a last photo with hair with qinyi, then dad. getting my donations counted at the booth, having gen take a last photo of me with hair, getting led to the guy who was going to shave all my hair, listening to instructions, sitting on that chair. i think when i sat on the chair the only thing i felt was: shit, this is real. or actually i didn’t quite know how to feel. he told me he was going to start shaving. i said OK.

throughout the whole experience i didn’t know what expression to have (do i smile? where am i supposed to look?) and it was honestly kind of awkward. i didn’t feel much from the actual loss of my hair; i watched my hair fall and i was just like, wow. but i looked at my friends armed with their cameras and with the brightest most supportive smiles ever. i looked at an MPH filled with supporters of this cause. i think i teared a little then – i’m not sure – but i held it back. i can’t properly word how much everyone’s support meant to me. my closest friends who’ve supported me all the way, acquaintances that bothered to come down even though we don’t talk much at all, even strangers who looked at me shave and smiled at me. on that chair i think one emotion (is it even an emotion?) i felt was love, in its purest form. i felt so loved. because i know this decision i made was a controversial one, i know some of my friends don’t even believe in HFH as much as i do, but they still supported me in what i chose to do.

and i can only wish to be able to offer the beneficiaries the same amount of love. or maybe i’m not in a position to, but i hope they’ll be able to see just how loved they are too. to everyone who came down, everyone who commented even the simplest comment on my insta photos, everyone who told me “good job”, everyone who let me know they were inspired, teared up, etc: thank you. for opening your heart to this cause. for letting me in, for letting me touch you. it’s so much more than the act of shaving itself, really – i say it a lot, but thank you for letting me empower you. i hope watching me shave, listening to me talk about shaving 1290483409 times, allowed you to think a bit more about this cause, a bit more about service, a bit more about advocacy.

post-shaving… that day i went home a little apprehensive, i remember. i didn’t want to go home alone because i was scared. actually, scared. the fear was very real, i think. but when i got home life just went on – with hair or without, life goes on. i think when it really struck me was when i showered, and realized: oh no i have no hair. i felt quite ugly, i think, because i remember that night i went to bed not feeling empowered, not feeling proud, not feeling good. i went to bed feeling like i wasn’t sure what i’d just done, and whether it was even worth it at all.

the next few days were difficult, very. i remember that. whenever i looked in the mirror i got quite sad, and then i got upset at myself for being sad because – the whole point is to tell yourself that not having hair is okay, and doesn’t make you any less beautiful. that’s the point i was trying to prove, so i guess i got frustrated that i myself wasn’t even believing in it. i looked at my reflection a lot less – i think subconsciously – i took a lot fewer photos of myself… i didn’t want to see myself. when i did i sometimes questioned why i even shaved when in actual fact i am so vain and my hair means so much to me – i felt so, so ugly. i can’t put it in words, can’t explain that emotion – but all i felt was ugly. it was difficult, but after a while i came to terms with the fact that it’s all part of the experience, part of what i signed myself up for, and it’s not my fault for feeling this way. this feeling – i guess they feel that too, on a much much larger scale; and this emotion i feel is just all part of learning how to empathize.

this week has been better. i’ve grown used to seeing a reflection of a bald head, i don’t feel ugly quite as much. i still have moments where i wish i had hair – it sparks from small daily situations like me trying out a new outfit and thinking: i wonder how i’d look like in this if i had hair/i’d look better if i had hair. but i don’t regret, and i hope i don’t forget all these feelings. i hope while my hair grows and i become a “normal” person again i don’t forget why i shaved, or how it was like to feel ugly bald.

i know a lot of people now know me as “the bald girl”, and my friends and i make jokes about me being bald all the time. but i hope people really truly will choose to view me as more than just “a bald girl”, just like how the beneficiaries would love to be known to be more than just “a cancer patient”. beyond my decision to shave i am still the same person.

i’m still learning, to answer people honestly when they ask me in real life about how… having no hair feels. normally i brush it off with “aiya it’s just hair honestly it’s nothing much” or “haha it’s more cooling lor and it’s hotter when i’m under the sun”; but i know for myself that it’s so much more than just hair, so much more than the heat or the cold. there are a lot fewer stares than expected, i think. i went to a friend’s house and her dad asked me why i was bald. i take the train everyday but don’t quite notice people staring at me. i think children do sometimes, but not for long, and i haven’t seen them asking their parents either. the other day i walked home past my neighbours and smiled at them awkwardly while feeling their glares; i wish i had the courage to tell them why i’m bald. i’m lacking, i know. i’m still learning as an advocate.

do i think this experience has been something that is meaningful, has truly made an impact, and started a conversation? i’m not sure, honestly. maybe not as much as the ideal, not as much as i wanted it to. it’s quite anti-climactic, if i may say so – because eventually as much as to me this is something so much more, on the outside, hair is just hair. maybe shaving isn’t all that much, really, but i know i don’t regret. i know in its own way my bald head did make a difference – even from the crowd at the MPH, i already knew. and i hope people don’t forget how it made them feel.

i’ll write again if i have new thoughts. but the deed is done – still coming to terms with it.

hair for hope ’16: does shaving really help?

when i tell people around me that i’m shaving often they ask me: actually i don’t understand – how does it help?

once a friend of mine asked me why i’m shaving, so i directed him to the post i wrote (the very first one of this series). he got back to me a while later, told me it was a good read, but told me that he had a friend who suffered from cancer. and that friend thought hair for hope was such a hoax – it was as though it was glamourizing their pain, and commercializing it.

it hit me quite hard – because hey, these are word coming from a cancer patient himself, someone who’s supposed to be our beneficiary. but at the same time i reminded myself that he is also only one of our beneficiaries. there are people who are encouraged by hair for hope and appreciate the act of shaving. CA did an interview with one of them, here’s one part of the series that you may want to view. just like any act of service, there will be gaps; shaving doesn’t reach out to every single beneficiary the way we want it to. but as with any other act of service we go ahead anyway, because we know that at least someone will benefit from it. no service, no advocacy will be perfect – none will be able to reach out to people exactly the way we want them to, and someone will always have something negative to say about it. but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go ahead just because it’s not perfect – because it’s better than nothing, and ultimately we shouldn’t discount it as service.

one can doubt the impacts of shaving – the more intangible parts, like whether beneficiaries really get encouraged by shavees, whether it’s really fighting the stigma, or just trivializing the whole issue, whether it really helps raise awareness (or whether there even is a need to raise awareness), etcetera. honestly, i must say, i’m not completely sure too – and it’s difficult to ever be sure, but i believe. and i don’t want to overglorify this act – it’s not something big, it’s not something that will save the world, it’s not something that can make every childhood cancer patient’s life better.

i know people who are skeptical about hair for hope, about shavees’ true motivations. sometimes i am too. i know for sure, that out there there are people shaving just “for fun”, there are people shaving even just as a dare, shaving for a free haircut, etcetera. the other day i was thinking about it, thinking about whether these people should even be shaving at all – because sometimes it seems like they’re defeating the whole purpose of shaving. i was so torn, because to me hair for hope is so much more than just the ACT of shaving, but rather the meaning of shaving and hair for hope is something i hold so close to heart.

but i spoke to a friend, and i recalled a senior’s sharing during GM. he said something along the lines of: there will always be people who are shaving with, judgementally speaking, the “wrong motivations”, but no matter how wrong their motivations are, it’s still $20 that will go a long way in benefiting the beneficiaries’ lives. my friend drew me a parallel situation: there are so many multi-millionaires, billionaires who donate large amounts to VWOs – and more often than not their motivations can be doubted (perhaps they don’t even truly believe in the cause they’re donating to). most of the time they’re just doing charity work to maintain their image and reputation, to fulfil CSR, to look good. but realistically speaking, they have a greater ability to give, and their large amounts of money is what will go a long way.

i don’t want to sound like a cynic, acts of service matter too – and acts of service, along with relationships that we build with our beneficiaries go a long way too. i know money isn’t everything, but let’s be pragmatic. while we can say that they need emotional support, they need support in fighting stigmas, ultimately they need money. they need money to fund their chemotherapy, they need money to fund these programmes that give them the support they need. and while hair for hope can be so much more than just a fundraising activity – at the very least, even if all other meaning is stripped from it, it is a fundraising activity. and well-meaning or not, every shavee contributes to our beneficiaries.

on that note, i’ve started fundraising on my part for hair for hope – fundraising is a big part of hair for hope and it would be great if you could show your support to the cause by donating an amount you feel comfortable with. it doesn’t have to be a large sum – every dollar goes a long way. you can drop me a message to pass me cash face-to-face, or you can donate at my satellite profile as linked. it would be nice if you could spread the message too/ask your family members! thank you, and i thank you for all your support, on behalf of the beneficiaries : )