#7

I was going to write a listicle about all the things I’d learned before this momentous birthday, but I already do that for a living:

https://lovely.asia/malaysia/en/a/author/stephanie/

https://atap.co/malaysia/en/advice/expert/stephanie/

http://zafigo.com/author/stephanie-francesca-pereira/

I took a Content Strategy course on Coursera last year. Sharing is good content strategy. Titling my blog posts with #numbers was not.

Anyway, this last year was the kind of beautiful mess that can only be honoured in freeform writing. I’m listening to Bittersweet Symphony as I write this which I now realise has shaped the direction and tone of this post. When I left Groupon last year, this song was playing in my Uber. Ominous, serendipitous. I don’t know. But I love this song. You should read the story on Wikipedia about how they didn’t get any royalties for this song. That kind of circular, tragic irony – it’s a figurative* bittersweet symphony. You can’t plan something like that.

*I’ve been watching Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. 

1. There is beauty in the good and bad things. 

I am now going to segue into that listicle because it feels appropriate.

I wrote parts of this post last year in July. I didn’t publish it – or anything else – because I didn’t know how to give it enough nuance so that it didn’t turn out to be commentary on any one thing going on in my life. I love messy stories. I do. I thought I did. The beauty of the human spirit and all that.

I was part of a course last year – on the last day, we were supposed to bring a memento to class and talk about it. As the day wore on, stories became more emotional and we were aware that this was something pretty special. We asked questions, we offered hugs, some tears were shed.

After it was done, one guy noted that no one had asked him anything about his story. That happens. There are some things you just don’t talk about.

It’s an experience that’s stuck with me. All the stories that aren’t shared, when we live in a time where relatability and authenticity are our markers of true quality content. (#contentstrategy) I want to think that I love messy stories, but I don’t always love the messy people who come with them. I grew up with messy people, and I always thought that was just them. But now I’m an adult, with other adult friends, and this is the thing I have learned.

Nuance is hard.

2. I write puns not tragedies.

I also went for a poetry reading last year, where the host introduced one of the featured poets as ‘one of the most resilient people I know.’ Her poem was beautiful, and I teared up because whiskey on an empty-ish stomach loosens the grip you have on your stone cold persona.

But resilient is one of those words that give me conflicting feelings, along with ‘well-adjusted‘. Who do you use those words to describe?

Exactly.

I read this thing that Bojack Horseman’s writer Raphael Bob-Waksberg posted on social media, where our generation’s greatest literary works are being written: (nuance!)

It’s not the calm before the storm that frightens me, it’s the calm that follows.

I watched a lot of television this year. I read a lot. I’d come home from work and lie down on the floor and listen to music I loved. When you’re a freshly baked adult, you forget that you can still do these things. In the past few years, I’ve become a more extroverted person. A lot of that came about from work; meetings, emails, people, being a full-time rah rah rah person. It was draining. I’d go to bed at 8pm. I’m a night person. It was all wrong.

And then one day, I woke up and realised that it didn’t feel wrong anymore. I want to say that this realisation took me on a journey of intense introspection and self-discovery, but it was mostly panic punctuated by me remembering that I wanted all this uncertainty punctuated by more panic.

When I started writing this post, I thought it was going to be about how I read 100 books in 2016 and became the kind of person who does daily pilates and eats salads regularly. (These are actual facts that I am taking the opportunity to state here.)

Panic! is good.

meme-dog

Maybe I’ll write a serious post next year.

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#6

Today is International Women’s Day – I love the wave of inspiring Facebook posts and shared articles I’m seeing (I say this without irony. I really do love them.) but at the same time it’s hard to separate the neuroses that people say you have because you’re female from the ones you have because you’re a minority or were an alarmingly fat kid or had the kind of childhood where one of your most heartwarming stories was from the time you accidentally drowned a box of baby chicks.

It’s probably all of them. You don’t know you’re beautiful. That’s what makes you beautiful. Amin Maalouf has this great book about identity where he says,

A person’s identity is not an assemblage of separate affiliations, nor a kind of loose patchwork; it is like a pattern drawn on a tightly stretched parchment. Touch just one part of it, just one allegiance, and the whole person will react, the whole drum will sound.

I love when people are both poetic and smart. And by poetic and smart, I mean One Direction because that’s some lyrical inception.

All the same, this is a post I saw today that I liked; it’s a Ted talk by Reshma Saujani who’s the founder of Girls Who Code. She talks about how girls are taught to be perfect, but not brave. It reminds me of a quote I like from Gone Girl, a book whose thematic genius I only appreciated after watching the movie. Side note: I love Gillian Flynn’s books because her female characters are real people lovingly grafted onto stereotypes who are allowed to be selfish and strange and terrible. Amidst her deconstruction of the perfect, happy wife, she has this to note,

I don’t know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the Internet. If we are betrayed, we know the words to say; when a loved one dies, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart-ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script.

It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.

I read The Feminine Mystique two weeks ago, a book about the vapid, empty lives that American women were living in the 50s after they were persuaded that female fulfillment was to be found solely at home in marriage and motherhood. The actual subject matter may be some what behind us, but the book is still relevant.

These women who by all appearances were living the dream were being driven to drinking, depression, affairs, and suicide. There were two aspects to this: some of these women were educated and were feeling the subconscious weight of not reaching their full human capacity. For others, their identities were reduced to their roles from young, and these girls lacked that turning point where they could develop a real sense of self. They didn’t know what to do with themselves outside their predetermined roles which is where advertising stepped in to convince them to fill their lives with fluffy fluff.

It was ‘the problem with no name.’ Reading this gave me a sense of deja vu because this is every millennial today. Entitled or disillusioned, depending on who you talk to.

I followed The Feminine Mystique, fittingly, with The Bell Jar. It’s a semi-autobiographical book about a girl who’s afraid of losing her inner self and identity because society expects her to be someone she’s not. I’ve been meaning to read this for the longest time but I only added it to my list after it was quoted in Master of None (a genius comedy series by Aziz Ansari; episode 3 will give you some uncomfortable feelings if your parents or grandparents were immigrants).

You can read the quote here, illustrated beautifully on Zen Pencils.

*Disclaimer: these books were revolutionary for their time, but they were also racist and homophobic. 

I want to tie this all up elegantly, but I’m inspired today to be an incredible mess. So. Femininity, identity, intersectionality, non-conformity, watch Master of None.

I also want to share this poem I found because how do you put this many emotions into a poem about words.

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#5

My blog is still made up of quotes, references, and a wee bit of actual writing but look at Beyonce’s Formation. It’s only got two real verses but when you step back and take it all in – music, metaphor, message – it’s a work of art. Our snapchats and memes and acoustic covers will be preserved in museums some day.

Side note: I was reading an online content guide for work purposes and one of the suggestions was to produce original content. What an alien concept.

Second side note: Deadpool was brilliant in the way that modern art mentioned above is. Art!!! The three trailers they showed before that at the cinema were for a movie about two seemingly ordinary but extraordinarily buff guys forced to save a world held under siege by Muslim terrorists (plot twist: they attack London instead of New York); a movie about two superheroes battling each other (plot twist: it wasn’t Captain America: Civil War); and a movie based on a young adult novel set in a dystopian future (plot twist: was that Octavia Spencer? IMDB: yes.)

This is a post I like by Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn about why it was a hit.

…over the next few months, if you pay attention to the trades, you’ll see Hollywood misunderstanding the lesson they should be learning with Deadpool. They’ll be green lighting films “like Deadpool” – but, by that, they won’t mean “good and original” but “a raunchy superhero film” or “it breaks the fourth wall.”

Use this in your life.

I feel like I’ve digressed too far for this to be the post I wanted it to be.

Anyway.

A long while back when I was on the cusp of my ongoing quarter life crisis, a friend shared this video with me. I go back to it every few months; I watch Grey’s Anatomy and read a lot of Ted Talks transcripts so I don’t know why this – a speech by someone who once crawled naked out of a mechanical rhino’s butthole – is the thing that stuck with me.

My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

Maybe it’s because I don’t know what my takeaway from this should be. Go for your dreams because it’s a 50/50 crap shot.

I was reading this story yesterday about the Yelp girl who got fired after tweeting her CEO to tell him she couldn’t afford food. I don’t know the extent of her difficulties but there were two points that interested me. One was that the CEO’s response was to agree that the cost of living was too high in San Francisco… and therefore decide that the company would be moving entry level jobs to a different area in the country where it is lower. The other is this Business Insider article where the writer rips into her for being an entitled millennial.

I think businesses should be allowed to make sound financial decisions. I think being forced out of your comfort zone does a person good. Do the things that are hard.

I also find it tragic that we live in a world where doing what you love or even halfheartedly care about is so antonymous with safety.

Disturbia.

Historical fact: people stopped being human in 1913. That was the year Henry Ford put his cars on rollers and made his workers adopt the speed of the assembly line. At first, workers rebelled. They quit in droves, unable to accustom their bodies to the new pace of the age. Since then, however, the adaptation has been passed down: we’ve all inherited it to some degree, so that we plug right into joysticks and remotes, to repetitive motions of a hundred kinds. – Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides

The following is from an incredible book I read last month called The Zero Marginal Cost Society which I hope I did add to my Goodreads reading list just because it was in Russell Brand’s Revolution.

A half century from now, our grandchildren are likely to look back at the era of mass employment in the market with the same sense of utter disbelief as we look upon slavery and serfdom in former times. The very idea that a human being’s worth was measured almost exclusively by his or her productive output of goods and services and material wealth will seem primitive, even barbaric, and be regarded as a terrible loss of human value.

I want to say this is unrealistically optimistic but who knows? Maybe the present is just an apocalyptic state of flux that we’ll manage to work our way through. I love this book because it talks about economics and politics and cyber terrorism and environmental destruction yet still remains convinced that our inherent human goodness gives us a chance.

So maybe that is the takeaway.

This is also incredible.

Understand that our present time is the furthest thing from banality. Reality as we know it is exploding with novelty every day. Not all of it’s good. It’s a strange and not entirely comfortable time to be alive. But I want you to feel the future as present in the room. I want you to understand, before you start the day here, that the invisible thing in the room is the felt presence of living in future time, not in the years behind us.

To be a futurist, in pursuit of improving reality, is not to have your face continually turned upstream, waiting for the future to come. To improve reality is to clearly see where you are, and then wonder how to make that better.

Act like you live in the Science Fiction Condition. Act like you can do magic and hold séances for the future and build a brightness control for the sky.

Third side note: if you want to be original, write a utopian novel. Hope is cool.

#4

When I was in high school, my aunt attended a wedding of some distant relative (when you’re Malayalee, every second Malayalee you know is a distant relative. My grandmother is also my mother’s cousin. True story.) Anyway, she was seated with relatives distance further squared who told the table a story about some other terrible distant relatives that had them clutching their saris and 18k gold.

She came home and told me the story and we laughed and laughed and laughed because we were the terrible distant relatives.

This is an excerpt I found recently which I have no source for except Tumblr but I have chosen to love it into existence which is how everything and everyone should be made.

“My daughter, she tells me when she grows up she wants to be a singer or a comic. I said ‘Well, baby, if you wanna be a comic, you gotta be a writer. But don’t worry, you’ve got tons of material: Your mother is a manic depressive drug addict. Your father’s gay. Your grandmother tap dances and your grandfather eats hearing aids.’ And my daughter laughs and laughs and laughs and I said ‘Baby, the fact that you know that’s funny is gonna save your whole life.’”— Carrie Fisher

Side note, I really want to read her book Wishful Drinking because that should have been the title of my memoir.

I was reminded of these things because I was reading this article on the power of vulnerability which had some solid truths going for it except at this point where she said,

“Well, I have a vulnerability issue. And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help.” And I said, “But here’s the thing: no family stuff, no childhood shit.”

This in turn reminded me of something I read in a pretentious book recommended to me by a pretentious boy I once knew (why is pretentiousness such an attractive quality):

“Sometimes, in idle moments, I find myself wishing that the government of my country would consider banishing philosophers – or, if not banishing us, at least locking us up for a few days to teach us a lesson. Not that I want to be banished or want my colleagues to be banished, but the fact that a government would consider banishing a group is evidence that the group matters, that it somehow makes a difference in a culture, a difference that might worry the authorities.” – A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

I judge both these quotes a wee bit, but I like the juxtaposition between them and the ones above; detachment and vulnerability and why and how they’re appealing to different sets of people with different experiences at different points in their lives.

I digress. The point of this post, which you did not see coming because I’m a master of suspense and tangents, is that I recently left my Groupon and Editorial families; dysfunctional and far too fond of cats and free food and melodrama but I laugh at them only because it means I laugh at me too.

People of substance – metaphorically, figuratively, literally.

I have loved this place and the people in it a lot, in ways that words can and should express but words don’t fail me, I fail me. This was easily the best years of my short 25 year old life. I wish I were a more emotionally present person so that I could sit back and bathe in the sheer magnitude of all I’ve had and experienced here, but I hover comfortably at the lower midpoint of extremes now which is progress except for my younger self who alternated between dreams of being Kofi Annan and a coke whore because why settle for anything less than extraordinary.

How do people live in this world.

But back to families: 5 years, 60+ different people. I have so much I’m grateful for.

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#3

I’ve spent the last month watching all 5 seasons of Damages – it’s a show about a hot shot evil lawyer and her naive protege who, like all other great naive proteges who came before her, goes on to become her fiercest rival. The twist is that they’re often the good guys, going up against large corporations for insider trading, environmental damage, ponzi schemes, even illegal private military jobs (which I did not know was a thing but now do because of Wikipedia…wtf) but it’s a slippery slope and the Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power.

It’s a tightly crafted show with lots of twists and surprises and I love how they incorporated flash forwards and dream sequences into their storytelling, but what really holds it together is the acting and the time the narrative takes to make these compelling character studies despite its fast pace – there’s a depth you won’t find in many shows these days though maybe that’s an unfair comparison to make because almost everything I watch airs on the CW or is Scream Queens.

In other news, if you miss Glee you should check out Pitch Slapped, a Lifetime docuseries that pits two rival New Jersey high school a cappella teams against each other, each under the mentorship of a superstar in the a cappella world.

There are many things I loved about Damages, but seasons 4 and 5 delved deeper into both their families and was personally satisfying for those reasons.

I hate bullies too.

Book-wise, I’m stuck midway through Middlesex which is as tedious as The Virgin Suicides was creepy, but I enjoyed The Round House a lot. It’s also a story about law and justice and maybe that’s a sign, but it put forth this religious counter-argument which I like better than God works in mysterious ways.

“..you have to wonder why a being of this immensity and power would allow this outrage – that one human being should be allowed by God to directly harm another human being.

The only answer to this, and it isn’t an entire answer, said Father Travis, is that God made human beings free agents. We are able to choose good over evil, but the opposite too. And in order to protect our human freedom, God doesn’t often, very often at least, intervene. God can’t do that without taking away our moral freedom. Do you see?

No. But yeah.

The only thing that God can do, and does all of the time, is to draw good from any evil situation.”

I figure that if I talk about deep things, I too will soon be able to say deep things. Ask me about Life of Pi some day.

The only other remarkable thing I’ve done this week – but it is remarkable! – which is why it’s remarked on here – is I’ve actually cooked and packed my office lunch the entire week. I baked two chicken breasts on Tuesday which made their way into two salads, a salsa sandwich, and a stew-gravy thing which I made with red wine and sounds more impressive than it actually was. But still. I’ve come a long way from 3am McDonald’s nuggets.

I’ve also channeled all the money I’ve saved from eating out into my coffee fund which is the real reason I’m still so functional.

To add to that (imagine sticking to your new year resolutions for a whole 10 days!), I’ve adhered to my workout schedule but unfortunately have no abs to show for it yet. I do have some developing arm muscles and now know why guys are always rubbing their shoulders. It’s the sensory equivalent of checking yourself out in every mirror you pass by except better ‘cos no one knows.

In my next post, short sentences.

 

#2

This is a good place as any to talk about the year that was – I take terrible pictures of myself so Facebook and Instagram aren’t working out so well.

Exhibit A: 

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I took this at Christmas. I forgot to suck in my stomach in the first photo. I did suck in my stomach in the second one, but that’s the face of someone who’s sucking in their stomach hard.

Someone who makes faces this awkward isn’t going to ask for a third photo.

Exhibit B:

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This New Year’s Eve photo should have gone on Instagram with a funny caption like ‘Last indulgence before I start my salad diet next year #loljk

It didn’t because I can make awkward faces even when I’m not sucking in my stomach.

I thought my blog would be more substantial and not this ghost of Facebook past, but Russell Brand too thought he was writing the next Mein Kampf or Das Kapital. Maybe I’ll just steal from my old blog:

‘There’s always a danger of turning into a caricature of yourself. A single rogue trait will unhinge itself and threaten to overwhelm the collective essence that is your being. People will stop seeing you as a real person. All the wondrous complexity of your individuality will be lost, and you will merely be An Individual, Capital Letters.’

I hope this year I’ll be The Girl who Stopped Sucking in Her Stomach in Photos (Because She’s Doing that #BBG Challenge That Everyone Else Is Doing).

For real though, I love flowery prose and deep, insightful pieces and think I was once capable of both. The years have passed and my literary works now consist of passive aggressive work emails and the captions on my 27 Instagram photos but I want to believe that it’ll return to me and that I didn’t mistake teen angst for talent.

I also think it’s easy to become a shallow version of yourself once you become a working adult – though one day I’d like to plunge in these piddling waters and write a Jack Kerouac-style novel except the protagonist is me and I’m shallow.

Anyway – 2015!

(Clockwise) 2015, in memory:

a. My new notebook for journaling and jotting down ideas. I tore a sheet out of it once.

b. My new running shoes. I cancelled my gym membership halfway through the year.

c. My new 2-tier lunch box – I was going to bring salad and grilled chicken / fish to work everyday. Pictured are the leftover Mcdonald’s nuggets and barbecue sauce I used it for the one time I did bring food to the office.

A lot of things fell to the wayside because of work and my addiction to TV shows but life is life and the things we do one year are the reasons we have life crises the next.

Speaking of TV, I loved Scream Queens. It’s a weird pastiche of horror, comedy, pop stars, and pop culture references; you can’t take it seriously but I swear it’s genius. I also adored the highbrow humour of The Most Popular Girls in School – Saison Marguerite is every second generation millennial struggling to find the words for their disconnect – so you know you’re speaking to someone with good taste.

I read 40 books this year which I’m proud of because once upon a time I used to ingest 7 Sweet Valley University books in a sitting but then I became one of those adults who only read Buzzfeed and stuff people linked on Facebook, Tumblr, and Reddit. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was a book that stayed with me for a while, but my favourite was Everything I Never Told You – it’s a murder mystery that’s really a tragic study of race, gender, and class.

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These are some grey pictures of water I took in Langkawi, Hong Kong, Hanoi, and Sydney in 2015. Travel is an easy thing to do the social media thing with though, so none of this is new.

I suppose I should write about all the lessons I learned in 2015 but almost everything I learned was at work and if I write about that now I won’t have anything to write about when I leave. Plus, this post already has half as many photos as my entire Instagram account.

This might become a blog where I talk about books and shows instead. News maybe. People I meet. Life. Substantial stuff. I don’t do feelings, but I do do metaphors.

Anyway, this year I’m going to write. Also move into my own place, learn how to really drive, lose 5kg, and only shop on Zalora during sales.

#1

I’ve been meaning to start blogging for a while – I’ve also been meaning to move into my own place, learn how to really drive (it is important that I mention here that I do actually have a license), lose 5kg, and stop giving tithes to Zalora but here we are.

While this was going to happen eventually, the real impetus came after reading Russell Brand’s Revolution. This is from one of the book’s Goodreads’ reviews – ‘..the book lacks substance and the writing is piss poor…It’s like someone stuffed a thesaurus up Brands ass and he can’t stop shitting words.’

Side note – I love reading the comments section of things on the internet.

I’m a real™ socialist at heart so the fact that New York Times Bestselling Author Russell Brand actually sold millions of copies of this ‘vision for a fairer, sexier society that’s fun and inclusive’ made me so mad that I had to start writing for real and free.

That said, I like to believe that you can learn something from anything so:

“You have to forgive everyone for everything. You can’t cling on to any blame that you may be using to make sense of the story of your life.”
Russell Brand, Revolution

I really like quotes. And books.

This blog is called Bloop because it’s a blog and I like parodies and Goop sells $495 patch pocket jumpsuits and has articles with titles like Better than Before: Making & Keeping Resolutions and The Secrets of Orgasmic Meditation.

Excerpt: ‘As John Steinbeck wrote, “It means very little to know that a million Chinese are starving unless you know one Chinese who is starving.”’

I can’t promise I’ll be honest (bloop’s backstory is a lie) or that this won’t turn out to be an amalgam of anecdotes and quotes and other things you can find on the internet by yourself, but at the very least I’ll be relatable.

Speaking of relatable, I just finished Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? and will now buy, watch, and read everything she produces.

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This happened to me last year! The stars, they’re just like us! Third near death experience after that time I got robbed and hit in the head multiple times with a helmet and that other time I choked on peanut butter while eating it straight from the jar.