Archive | December 2013

Goodbye 2013, go away 2014.

Goodbye 2013.

It’s 29th December 2013. In two days time, we’ll be ushering in the new year and hearing/reading lots of “HAPPY NEW YEAR” from virtually everywhere. Well, first off twitter’s gonna be spammed with countless Happy-New-Year’s tweets. Urgh. And Facebook. And the newspapers. And maybe even the tv news gonna be wishing its viewers happy new year as well. All these while I’ll be thinking “can you guys not….”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some self-obsessed pessimist here who sees the negative in everything. Well, ohkies maybe I turned just a tad that this year. No, but the real problem here is I dread 2014. Coz it’s the year I turn j2. And j2 means A Levels. And A Levels means the deepest levels of academic hell. I don’t need to be in depression to know that 2014’s gonna suck, horribly. I don’t need to be some pessimist to know that 2014’s gonna be the year where I’ll breakdown, maybe alot of times. 2014’s gonna be the year where I’ll probably have to study the hardest I’ve ever studied in my entire life. And it’s the year where I’ll feel this perpetual state of tiredness. That year’s gonna make or break me, my future. I’ll either do well in As and get into the dream university and the dream course I’ve always wanted to go since secondary school. Where my future’s gonna be brighter than my computer screen. Or, my future’s gonna be like this black-holed vacuum that’s endless and leading to nowhere. I refuse to think of the latter that much.

Yeah, so I understand the brevity of A Levels coz I’ve seen what it’s like to screw up your As. Your future is literally turned into some darkened street. All your dreams of becoming a doctor or a lawyer are going to be shattered, like broken glass. I’ve seen it, I’ve witnessed it, I’ve heard stories of it. I’ve heard people say how their j2 year was the worst year of their academic life. That they were not the same persons they were at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year.

But I do know this.

They survived through it. My sisters, they made it through. My cousins, they made it through. My seniors, they made it through.

So although some psyschological trauma may be inflicted (ohkay I sound as though I’m being reaped into the Hunger Games), they still made it through, pretty much in one-piece. So if they can do it, so can I.

You know how when you’re standing under the block when it’s raining so heavily, waiting for the rain to subside so you won’t atleast be so wet or fall sick or something like that? But you realize that you can’t just keep standing under that HDB block forever. Surely you would have to dash across the road and reach to the next shelter right? Do you then take tentative steps forward, afraid that as you dash across, a bolt of lightning will suddenly flash and it might strike you? Or do you prepare yourself, crack a few knuckles (ohkay I am exaggerating), flex your muscles and then just go. Just dash across while thinking “YOLO YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE”. Either way you are going to reach to the nearest shelter you can find, drenched I guess. But it’s not the destination that counts. It’s the attitude you adopted when you were preparing to dash across, without the umbrella. Do you dread and feel scared of the rain? Or do you face it squarely and bravely?

Ohkay that was kinda a bad analogy but the point I’m transmitting out is clear;

I do have a choice as to how I want to face the rain though. And I think I’ll pick the latter. I think I’ll face it bravely, and say “BRING IT ON”. I may not know this yet, but I think how your thinking’s gonna be will affect how you dash across that road and reach your end point. Because when you face it bravely, you’re not going to let the rain creep up on your mind, you’re not going to think that the rain’s gonna hurt you. Similarly, if I face A Levels bravely on its face, I won’t let the fear of screwing it up rule over me. Instead, I’ll only think of ways on how to own the papers and how to achieve my dreams. And I guess that’s the first step to ace-ing your As? I dunno haha.

I’ll have friends and my family to encourage me on, I’ll be the one to encourage my friends to go on, I’ll be the one who breaks down and needs some form of encouragement as well. But I guess I’ve gotta face it anyways. And I’ve got a choice on how I want to face it.

The Storyteller

My father trusted me with the details of his death. ‘Ania,’ he would say, ‘no whiskey at my funeral. I want the finest blackberry wine. I don’t want a summer funeral, Ania,’ he would say. ‘Make sure instead I die on a cool day, when there’s a nice breeze.’ I would pretend to take note of his requests. I didn’t mind the macabre conversation; my father was far too strong for me to believe any of these requests of his would ever come to pass. My father trusted me with the details of his death… but in the end, I was too late.

I just finished reading Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller. All I can say is it’s been long, it’s been very long, since I’ve last read such a good book. You know how some books become your bestest friends when you’re reading them? Those books where you carry around with you everywhere you go, even if it’s just having a little dinner with your family outside, because you would want to read it whenever it’s possible. Those books where you can just slip into the character’s worlds so easily because you feel a connection to them? Those books where you just can’t stop reading?

And when you finally finish the book, it’s as if your bestest friend is gone. It’s as if a part of you has been torn apart, and there’s an empty hole in your heart. You would have to go by days before you pick up another book again, because you’re still trapped in the world of the previous story you’ve just read.

Yes, The Storyteller was like that for me.

It follows the story of Sage Singer, of Minka and of Josef Weber. Josef Weber has committed a murder, and he wishes to seek forgiveness for Sage. But, it’s not just any murder. It’s a murder that was apalling, that was horrible, that was condemned, that made you question if humanity still exists.

The World War 2 Jewish genocide.

Minka was a Jewish survivor and the story that Jodi Picoult weaved was just so realistic and horrible yet so amazing at the same time. It broke my heart to learn how the Jewish were really treated. Truth is, Jodi Picoult weaved Minka’s story based on experiences told by real Jewish survivors who got through the Holocaust. Therefore, technically, Minka’s story was not purely fictitious. It was real, it happened. And I was just speechless. I learnt so much from Minka’s experience. I was both amazed and horrified. Amazed because not all SS soldiers are heartless and cruel and inhumane. Amazed because despite the horrific treatments, the Jews helped one another. Horrified because I would not be able to understand how the victims survived, how the victims felt. They were stripped of their self-respect, of their dignity and of their reputation, reduced to animals and worthless creatures. Minka said that she has never tried to tell anybody about her story, nor write it out because sometimes, words are not enough to describe how you really feel. The words that portray your emotions would not bring justice to your feelings, because they are too overwhelming, because they are too powerful to be confined within alphabets. And I think that’s how it is for me too when I read about Minka’s experience. I don’t think I can ever describe how I felt when I was reading through Minka’s experiences. It’s that powerful.

The main psychological dilemma that was recurrent in the book was the belief that when you do something so horrible and repulsive for many times, you stop feeling, you stop thinking it’s bad. You make up an excuse for yourself to get through it. You do it so many times that you start to believe it’s actually ohkay to do it. You start to think it’s not wrong.

And Sage Singer, she’s a flawed character. Sometimes I detest how she feels so sorry for herself, that she thinks she doesn’t deserve love, actual love, because of her scar. How she pushes people away. How she wallows in self-pity makes me want to scream at her sometimes to just get up and start living life. To stop being so anti-social and for once, to be proud of herself for what and who she really is. Yes she has a scar, but think about what is there of her that’s left? And then she met Leo, and for once, she is able to see herself through the eyes of how her best friend and the people who love her see her. Most importantly, she is able to do what she feels is right for her.

This book is truly an incredible read and I enjoyed every single moment devouring its pages because it has taught me so much. It has taught me about hope, sorrow, love, loss, sacrifice, betrayal and most importantly, forgiveness.

Oh and I love the name Minka so much, that I might just name my future daughter that.

“You will ask me, after this, why I didn’t tell you this before. It is because I know how powerful a story can be. It can change the course of history. It can save a life. But it can also be a sinkhole, a quicksand in which you become struck, unable to write yourself free.
You would think bearing witness to something like this would make a difference, and yet this isn’t so. In the newspapers I have read about history repeating itself in Cambodia. Rwanda. Sudan.
Truth is so much harder than fiction. Some survivors want to speak only of what happened. They go to schools and museums and temples and give talks. It’s the way they can make sense of it, I suppose. I’ve heard them say they feel it is their responsibility, maybe even the reason they lived.
My husband – your grandfather – used to say, Minka, you were a writer. Imagine the story you could tell.
But it is exactly because I was a writer that I could never do it.
The weapons an author has at her disposal are flawed. There are words that feel shapeless and overused. Love, for example. I could write the word love a thousand times and it would mean a thousand different things to different readers.
What is the point of trying to put down on paper emotions that are too complex, too huge, too overwhelming to be confined by an alphabet?
Love isn’t the only word that fails.
Hate does, too.
War.
And hope. Oh yes, hope.
SO you see, this is why I never told my story.
If you lived through it, you already know there are no words that will ever come close to describing it.
And if you didn’t, you will never understand.”

In literature, I learnt a technique where authors sometimes use. It’s when the authors use the voice of their characters to directly communicate to us. The author is just merely using the character as an avenue, as an outlet, to speak to us, readers directly.

I liked to think that at this part, the part which is my favourite, Jodi Picoult is doing the same thing. She’s using Minka to say what she really feels.

Afterall, Minka and Jodi Picoult are the same afterall. They are both writers and dreamers.