Weekend Inspiration

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” – Neil Gaiman

Jaisalmer, IndiaPhoto by Stef Thompson

Jaisalmer, India
Photo by Stef Thompson

A Letter to Me

To the Future Me:

You had better be happy! Whatever it is you are doing, make sure you are happy and you have no regrets. Make sure you are following your heart and your spirit.

  • Act. Perform. Entertain.
  • Travel. Learn. Experience.
  • Teach. Care. Support.
  • Love. Respect. Admire.
  • Read. Write. Explore.

And be passionate, wild, and wonderful.

Now get your act together if you haven’t already!

– Stef, age 17, written 26/09/2002 9:15pm

I went home for Christmas and New Year after a whirlwind two weeks in India (which will be the subject of many future posts) and an emotional 24 hours in Singapore (during which I gave notice to my flatmates that I’ll be finding another place when I return from my holidays – another story – and spent the period crying over the end of a journey, the beginning of a journey, and several journeys that are not yet complete).

The last few months of 2012 were ridden with anxiety, stress, emotions, and – above all – a general feeling of what the hell am I doing here? By “here” I mean a lot of things – here in this country, here in this job, here in this life, here in this world and universe and all of the above. My mother often sighs and apologises that I have been cursed with the constant need to seek answers to life and the universe – unfortunately, 42 just isn’t enough for me. Sometimes I laugh and tell her it’s a blessing. Most times I just agree with silence.

My writing has suffered because I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of failure and defeat, a feeling that there is nothing left to do or say or feel.

But then I received a letter from myself. A letter that reminds me how much I have done, how much I have said, how much I have felt.

Last year my high school’s ten year reunion took place and the time capsules we made when we were in our final year were distributed. My friend collected mine on my behalf and it was waiting for me when I returned for the holidays. It contained a letter I had written to myself, which I’ve written at the beginning of this post.

2012 was an interesting year. A lot of people seem pleased to be moving forward and away from it, and I must say that I am one of them. I did some incredible things in 2012, but I also experienced a lot of negative things. This blog isn’t about woe-is-me emotional downloads, but it is about writing – and writing is feeling, living, learning, loving, laughing … and sobbing, yelling, hurting, yearning. I am looking to 2013 with an optimism reminiscent of seventeen-year-old-me, the me who was determined to make the world her oyster, to be passionate and bold and carefree.

I think seventeen-year-old-me would be happy to learn that I’ve achieved a lot of what she wanted, and while there are a list of “what ifs” and numerous moments of “oops”, there aren’t any regrets. And that’s a pretty good record to bring into the new year.

Notebooks in Udaipur, IndiaPhoto by Stef Thompson

Notebooks in Udaipur, India
Photo by Stef Thompson

Gone Wandering

Little India, SingaporePhoto: me!

Little India, Singapore
Photo: me!

Tomorrow I leave for two weeks in India and for some strange and unusual reason my bag is packed, fridge is empty except for milk and a mooncake (don’t ask), and my bedroom is moderately tidy. Furthermore, there is a novel on my hard drive, a suitcase full of books and gifts (the ones that weren’t edible) sitting in the corner waiting for when I turn back to the airport and jet off to Australia, and the strange sensation that everything is going to be fine.

I even went grocery shopping yesterday and got all three things on my list.

Fortunately, I haven’t had to put my Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan into action.

I have spent the past week feeling terribly anxious and experiencing feelings of all-round blegh. While people are asking me if I’m excited about the holidays, I’m staring blankly at them trying to remember if I put pants on before I left the house and not wanting to check in case I haven’t – ignorance is bliss.

That feeling has passed. I now have the nervous thrill of pending adventure sitting in my stomach, and the next 48 hours will pass quickly – I’m working today and tomorrow, so the time will surely twirl past. In 48 hours I will be in Delhi – hopefully checked into my hotel and sound asleep. Not that glamorous, but it will get better!

See you in two weeks!

The best laid plans …

Part of my Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan involves hard copies of the longitude and latitude details for locating my family’s property in case satellites fail and the Internet goes down before I can use Google maps. Yes, I have a Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan. It has a three-part process:

  1. get a pilot and a plane
  2. fly to the family property
  3. hope my Dad isn’t zombified and can make everything better

Despite being (somewhat) prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse (I’m aware there are some flaws in this plan), I am little prepared for anything else. Examples where my preparation is lacking include:

  • My pending trip to India (as is a common chant of my gender, “I have nothing to wear!”)
  • My pending trip to Australia (I recently ate all of the presents I had bought to take with me – in fairness, I was home sick and my fridge contained milk past its use-by date and some really old bok choy … we’ll discuss my grocery shopping issues later in this post)
  • NaNoWriMo (I just spent a week and a half in a dazed and confused state of blegh – I’m still super fatigued but I’m breathing better, which is a start, but my novel is … not)
  • Life (this is an ongoing issue)

As the Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan may indicate, I’m not the best “preparer”. I used to be. I used to get caught up in lists and details and even schedules of the days leading up to X event and what needed to be accomplished in preparation. I even had run sheets for the day-of. Seriously. What I needed to do at each time slot so everything would run smoothly was carefully planned out.

Then I realised I hate details. While I got caught up in details, life was taking place at an alarming pace.

Now … I write lists, sure. Sometimes I even cross things off. But generally, I’m less of a planner and more of a roller. I just roll with it. I don’t have any clothes to take to India? Whatever. Take a credit card and buy stuff when you get there. Roll with it. (You will notice, however, that sometimes I indicate I am planner of the most prepared kind. This is explained next.)

The problem is, when I get stressed I revert to being a control freak. I need to know what the five-year-plan is, and I need a run sheet for each year. I need a schedule for every month and I need all of my lists and details to be accurate and neatly crossed out, in order of appearance.

With beginnings and ends swirling around each other at this time of the year, I’m plagued with anxiety-ridden dreams and panic attacks over word counts, t-shirt collections, empty present shelves, and all of the things I haven’t done with my life that I probably should be sorting out and getting done (this is a vicious cycle – frequent readers will know this). I get so overwhelmed that no list can compensate.

Used under Creative Commons, credit: Bruce Turner

Here’s an analogy involving grocery shopping to further demonstrate my point:

Every time I go grocery shopping, I write a list. So after spending two days asleep and recovering from whatever virus plagued my system (fortunately, despite my predictions, I was not Patient Zero), I ventured out into the world yesterday with a list: milk, cheese, yogurt, chocolate, wrapping paper, pasta.

I walked into the supermarket and picked up a basket. I made my way through the supermarket and exited with my shopping bag. When I got home I discovered: milk, chips.

How did this happen? I had a perfectly logical list, I was armed with a basket to carry my goods, and yet … what happened?

I got overwhelmed. Despite living in Singapore for a year now, I still get confused in my local shopping centres and supermarkets. I still can’t find all the brands and products I want, and I usually get so confused and frustrated that I grab what I can – and believe me, it makes perfect sense at the time – and exit before I scream.

And in life, I get overwhelmed. Despite living this life for twenty something years now, I still get confused … with everything. I still haven’t found my purpose, I still don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing, and I am so confused and frustrated that I’m just … making my way through it and hoping I remember the milk.

Here’s something to laugh at so you stop laughing at my grocery shopping attempts.

Keeping this in mind, I wrote a list of the four things that are most plaguing me at the moment (and, just now, added a little motivational sentence to each task):

  • Finish NaNoWriMo – you’re close. Stop looking at someecards and finish the damn novel.
  • Pack for India – and take your credit card so you can buy more clothes when you get there. And for goodness sake, take out the four books and pack your damn Kindle – it’s why you got it, remember?
  • Pack for Australia – no one has to know you ate their presents (except … now they do … but don’t worry about it)
  • Your life is already sorting itself out. You’ve done pretty well so far, right?

See? It’s easier than I thought. Now I just have to roll with it.

Used under Creative Commons, credit: Kevin Dooley

What delightful chaos is plaguing you this time of year? How are you managing it? Am I the only one who can’t stick to a shopping list?

My name is …

I could insert the obligatory opening line here about how NaNoWriMo has taken over my life and I am caught up in a whirlwind of words and a neverending typing frenzy, but that would be dishonest. NaNoWriMo has done amazing things to my life – the takeover has been a welcome change.

Stef the Writer is back, and writing.

Really writing.

I am, once more, the writing writer; I just wish I didn’t have to wait until November to remember who I am, to remember what it is I do. I am suddenly inspired and motivated to get my words onto paper (or the screen). This morning I shot out of bed with a renewed sense of joy and enthusiasm, and promptly set about getting things done.

This morning I hit 25,000 words on my novel, actually showered at a reasonable hour (i.e. before lunch time) and got into my comfortable clothes (that would be a t-shirt and loose pants that are a delightfully garish shade of bright blue acquired in Thailand), then buckled down to do some lesson writing that I had been putting off for two weeks.

While preparing some materials and resources, I stumbled across this page with a “Name Poem” template that provides the following format:

Line 1 – Your first name
Line 2 – “It means” then 3 adjectives that describe you
Line 3 – “It is the number” then any number you choose
Line 4 – “It is like” describe a colour but don’t name it
Line 5 – “It is ” then name something you remember experiencing with family or friends – something that makes you smile
Line 6 – “It is the memory of” then name a person who is or has been significant to you
Line 7 – “Who taught me” then 2 abstract concepts (such as “honesty”)
Line 8 – “When he/she” then refer to something that person did that displayed the qualities in line 7
Line 9 – “My name is” your first name again
Line 10 – “It means” and in 1-2 brief sentences state something important you believe about life.

I like writing poetry. I write terrible poetry that I never show to anyone, but I do enjoy experimenting with new formats and ideas. This template seemed particularly fitting given my current rush of inspiration and desire to re-define myself (a recurring motif in my life, I know) as a writer. It made me think of all the times I caved in to the little voices of self-doubt, and the times I didn’t. Most importantly, it made me think of what it means to be me, how I want to define myself, rather than accepting other definitions and trying to change myself to fit those instead of defining myself as I am.

So … What does my name mean?

It means quirky, witty, eternally discombobulated.
It is the number 11.
It is like leaves and grass and the deepest of seas;
It is dancing in the rain and singing at the top of your lungs.
It is the memory of my mother
Who teaches me resilience and passion
When she laughs and loves and works and demands I do the same.
My name is Stephanie;
It means I travel and learn and discover. It means I write.

What does your name mean?