A Space of My Own. Time Pending…

Snowdrop: Hope

The city ruined me.

When I was a teenager, I lived in a quiet little town in the countryside by the river. My parents worked 12-hour shifts, and I was often alone. Cautious with ironclad morals, I never caused any teenage ruckus in town, attended impromptu bonfire parties, or dabbled with either drugs or alcohol. With dial-up Internet, there were very few things I could do but write.

Alone in a quiet house, accompanied by freshly mowed lawns in the summers and blankets in the winters, I was forced to imagine an exciting life for myself, craved other worlds and other people – fabulous, magical worlds and fabulous, magical people.

I created Nocte as my better shadow, her siblings as my brother’s other faces, and her friends and enemies the friends and enemies I did not have, not the sort of friends who were as unwavering, creative, strong or distinct as Nocte’s.

Alone. Quiet. With my own space. I could hear myself think…I could hear the worlds and people I created very clearly and without obstruction. At 16, nothing was too ridiculous to imagine, nothing too strange to dabble in, and nothing too true to lie about. Everything was raw and came out in a stream of words and jarred grammar. There was nothing that could stop me from writing anything I wanted, me included. Especially myself.

Nocte Yin was an escape, a saving grace, and a gift to my boring, everyday life.

I was able to conceive and maintain a certain discipline and talent in writing.

It all changed, however, when I moved to the city for university. The city was bigger with more people and more activities. More to see. More to feel. More to be. I found myself diverting my focus to the latest anime, the latest get-together with friends, the latest career choice. There was so much to be happy about, be sad about, be worried about.

But mostly worry. So much worry.

Being a teenager, my parents were able to cushion me from the hard, jagged pains of life. Being an adult, I now have to fend for myself. School, job searching, maintaining a livelihood. So hard, harsh and horrendous. My reality became more ridiculous, more strange and more truthful than the worlds and people I had created years before.

I found myself struggling to write about them. I found myself without time or space to write about them.

The self-discipline and talent for writing I was once so proud of…waned in the face of reality.

I frequently think of this great loss in my life. I remember the time and space I used to have, and try to recreate it. I would go back home, to my parents’, and think that, for that weekend, I can relive that inspiration and creativity and write something – anything. I would wake up early in my current house in the city, earlier than my brother and his girlfriend, just to recreate that quiet time I used to have in hopes of writing something – anything. I once went to the park late in the afternoon, alone and quiet and surrounded by freshly mowed lawns in the summer, hoping to write something – anything. I managed a paragraph.

Things are so fast and jarring in the city – so distracting. I cannot manage myself.

Time is not malleable and hard to control. Space – but space – I can manipulate.

The house I currently live in, in the city, is owned by my parents, bought two decades ago for the sole reasons of giving my family of immigrants a chance in the big city…and a home base when it came time for my brother and I to leave the small town for the city’s many post-secondary schools. This house was built decades ago, with old wiring and no space between the walls for insulation. It was cold and drafty in the winter.

I say “was” because my parents have decided to renovate this drafty, old house this year. In fact, we are undergoing renovations as we speak. I was not only able to retain a room for my bedroom, but also another room for a living room/office. I have so many ideas (also distractions from writing) about this office. I want to recreate that quiet, alone space so that I can write again.

I want it so desperately that sometimes all I can imagine in the space is a desk and my desktop – the bookshelves, sofabed, coffee table, lamp, elliptical are only at the peripheral.

I want, desperately, to have that again: a space of my own.

A space where nothing is too ridiculous to imagine, nothing too strange to dabble in, and nothing too true to lie about. A space where I can be raw and open, and not afraid to share and be all that I am capable of communicating and being.

A space to be free.

A space where I can be surrounded by all the things I love.

A space where I can find my better shadow again.

A space of my own…with time pending.

Snowdrop | Hope

甄雪清

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A Conversation with Nocte

Pansies: Thoughtful

Self-Reflection: An Author and Her Protagonist*

Zhen Xue Qing: Hi.

Nocte Yin: Hi.

ZXQ: How are you?

NY: Good. You?

ZXQ: Overwhelmed. Between my new job and my freelancing projects, I hardly have time to just sit and think. It also terrifies me that I’m in a one-year contract with only a small chance of full employment by the end – a full-time permanent position that doesn’t include a pension, but health insurance sounds like the Holy Grail.

NY: That’s absolutely awful and is a reflection of your modern society, as well as the precursor to what life will be like for your generation and the generations to come.

ZXQ: Yes, exactly! How did you know?

NY: Your thoughts and comprehension of the world are the same as mine. I am your creation, remember?

ZXQ: Oh…right. Sometimes I forget. You lead the story more often than I do. Oftentimes, I feel as though you are more real to others than to me.

NY: You are the intention. I am the action.

ZXQ: I suppose that’s how it is. You must despise me for all the “intentions” I put you through.

NY: All the events, scenarios and feelings I’ve endured are in direct correlation to the events, scenarios and feelings you were enduring at the time.

ZXQ: Only magnified.

NY: Yes.

ZXQ: How can you still be so composed? After so many years? You’ve lost so much – more than I ever could – and now you’re stuck in a perpetual vortex of angst and physical abuse until I feel “inspired” to write again. Doesn’t that frustrate you?

NY: Not as much as it frustrates you. You are the one writhing over the details and the miniscule – the whats, hows and whys. I am only your avatar. No matter how arduous, how tiring or how bloody, the difference between my mental health and yours is that we both know how my story ends. We don’t know how you’ll end up – we don’t know the whats, hows and whys. We only know death.

ZXQ: Which is why I created you, the people you love and the world you live in. You are the better version of me – stronger, funnier, smarter – more loud and more forgivable, more flawed but flawless to others. This is why we never have conversations – you and I are the same.

NY: And the people I love are the people you wish you had. The world I live in is the world you wish you could manipulate in your reality.

ZXQ: Control is important to me.

NY: And I control my world. I can bend rules, make mistakes – kill, and be forgiven. You are constrained to the rules of your society.

ZXQ: I am not born into nobility, have no fortune, no fame, no powers – nothing. I am ordinary.

NY: Yet extraordinary because you have created something real for people.

ZXQ: That’s my inflated ego speaking.

NY: Yes, it is, but that is how normal people keep on living – to be the protagonist in their story and hope to be special in some way.

ZXQ: But not you. You could never live my life: commuting to and from work, cooking in bulk to cover both lunch and dinner for efficiency sake, fearing that you’d grow old alone, fearing that your manager would let you go one day for budget reasons, wondering how you could support your parents once they retire, how you could possibly afford a home in this economy, spend the majority of your week at work and only living your real self during the weekend, watching others get ahead even if you don’t know if “ahead” will ever be enough – wishing for security.

You could never live my life.

NY: Of course not. We’ve tried ordinary, remember? It didn’t work out. That’s why you made me extraordinary.

That’s why you made me.

*My cousin often asks me if I ever talk to my characters. Truth be told, I don’t because they’re characters and parts of me, so I know what they’ll say and how they think. They are me.

Pansy | Thoughtful

甄雪清

2013: The Year of Transition

Peace Lily: Peace and HopeIn the last dregs of December, snow falls like cold sugar powder. For the past week, the city has been stopped cold by freezing rain, felled trees and broken power lines. Nature sweeps in a death so cold and beautiful that everything is muffled in a glass coffin. For two days, we were without electricity and moved by candlelight. There was something so simple and lovely in the lack of light and noise that I felt like I was living in a dream.

Today, the sun is bright, the ice has melted and soft snow falls. After being buried for so long, the wind, though chilly, carries life with it. It’s refreshing, a turn in the tide, and with a glance I realize that the new year is just around the corner.

This year has been a tumultuous storm for me: I’ve been laid off from my first full-time job, got a part-time job in a completely different field, completed a worthwhile internship at a magazine, taken a chance freelancing as a copy editor for a major publishing house and, finally, I got a full-time contract as a proofreader for a different content brand.

It’s been a lot of up and downs, and I know a lot of people have been concerned for me. I know, as a young graduate, that many are still struggling. It’s not happily ever after, but it’s these small fortunes that helped me realize that these great and wonderful things happen slowly and with reason.

May 2014 be fortuitous for all. I strive, always strive, for tomorrow.

Peace Lily| Peace and Hope

甄雪清