Must Guys PAY for your meal?

I am once again triggered by some of the implicit assumptions that some people make about couples when I was initially having a rather relaxing (almost mindless) chat with my friend today. Then I got angry. Really angry because it is implied in his message – as far as I read it – that my boyfriend pays for my meals therefore, “Poor *boyfriend*”.

Firstly, clarifications: my friend if you happen to read this, you are still my best friend and you are still awesome but I really disagree with your statements. Yep, I sent you some angry ranty messages on Telegram because I am just so incensed.

Secondly, am I a feminist? Nope, never. Am I trying to say something about gender steorotypes or something some some some about equality and something? Maybe, I need to summarize this later because like I say, I am just so annoyed.

Here comes this burning question I am sure everyone has considered somewhere in their romantic relationships:


My answer to that is, “What the hell, no.”

To begin with, that statement itself is wrong the moment it makes the assumption that your boyfriend is OBLIGED to treat you to food and pay your monthsary and anniversary dinners, but actually no they are not. True, couples do buy each other things very very often and treat each other food often, but they are never ever obliged to. In fact, they are not even obliged to celebrate every single monthsary (if both of you can reach a consensus and agree on that) with surprises.

Meals are not obligatory.

Surprises are not obligatory.

They are things that your significant other do for you because they love you and want to show you their appreciation. Therefore, it is important that when we are treated to a meal or anything else, we don’t take it for granted, like this is the standard that is expected. I know that nowadays most guys often treat their girlfriends to meals, and I think that that is really really sweet and TOTALLY OKAY as long as both of them are okay with it – i.e. there is no prior and enforced expectation that the guy HAS to pay.

You get what I mean?

I will give you an example of what I mean by my own distinction between the two:


Scenario One:

Guy: Dear today I treat you to lunch okay?

Girl: Oh what’s the occasion? But that’s very nice of you, thank you!

Guy: No occasion la, just feel like it.

Girl: Aww, that’s so cute!


Scenario Two:

Girl: Dear what are we eating for lunch?

Guy: Uh Idk maybe *something something something*?

Girl: Orh can, you paying right? You are paying right?

Guy: Uh, can is can la…

Girl: What do you mean “can is can”, you are supposed to pay.


You see what I mean now? Scenario one is completely fine because there is no expectation for him to pay and the guy’s offer to pay is met with gratitude and thanks – which we all know is a very very important thing in ALL RELATIONSHIPS and not just romantic relationships. You try to tell your mom that she is expected to cook you lunch and see if you are met with a spoon flying into your face, y’unno?

Scenario two is something I have yet to witness in both myself and my friends because it is not just the unfair expectation that your boyfriend has to pay, but also a lack of gratitude since you are taken it as a given. An expectation like how sun is supposed to come up in Singapore at around 6.45am and if it doesn’t, something is wrong. That is inherently problematic on so many levels because….

  • Isn’t this supposed to be a (relatively) equal relationship? (I say “relative” because there is realistically never an absolutely equal relationship)
  • Suggests that you are taking someone’s good intentions (doesn’t even matter who) actually, for granted?
    • If you don’t expect your parents to treat you to meals every now and then, how come this is expected of your boyfriend?

If my arguments are confusing to anyone who has lived their lives thinking that guys should pay…watch this video of a handsome guy breaking it down for you!

(sidenote: that guy is just melty isn’t he?)

Basically, what Matthew Hussey is saying that if you think that a guy should pay for your meals because hey you are the one making time for him, something is very wrong because that guy is ALSO spending his time with you. It is mutual and it shouldn’t be something like he needs to “pay for your time”.

So…what makes me so upset?

I am upset with the implicit assumption made by my friend that my meals are being paid for because each time we have a fairly pricey meal and I tell the said friend to try the good food sometime, he always ends off with the same comment…”Poor *boyfriend*”.

Today is the day that comment triggered a level of unprecedented ire in me. Because for those of you who know me, I don’t freeload. Like, I don’t go out expecting people to pay for my meals, boyfriend, friend or family. I always offer to split the tab in the way most agreeable to the other party because that’s is just something inculcated in me as I am being brought up. Have I been given treats? Definitely. But where possible, I remember to reciprocate and thank the person – either through treating them back or through other means – when the time is right.

I mean that whole paragraph is for people who don’t actually know me, so if you do, you would be like yep, sounds about right.

I feel so incensed because I feel that there is this implicit assumption in my friend and my conversation that:

  1. I live a high maintainence lifestyle (where food is concerned) and I am forcing my partner into it. Probably against his will too.
  2. He pays for our meals. Hence, poor thing him and ohhhh you evil YY(so I feel is implied).

Despite me clarifying time and time again that no my partner does not pay for my meals most of the time (to which I got the reply “WHY ARE GUYS EXPECTED TO PAY” which is ANNOYING because I don’t expect you to pay!!! WHO SAYS YOU HAVE TO PAY?!?!?) I am still made to feel like a expensive freeloader. Not only am I freeloading, I choose expensive stuff to freeload. Afterwhich when I highlighted that I don’t freeload, I am returned with the argument of “it is not about who is paying, it is about your lifestyle”.

Now that is just more confusing. Why is my lifestyle of any kind of affect if I am usually not the one choosing the dining locations? It is not as if I drag my partner into a random place and force him to dine there. I usually don’t choose since I like most food (except for a select few + hawker centers in afternoons BECAUSE SINGAPORE HOT HOT YOU KNOW?? I eat hawker centers A LOT in the evenings and nighttimes or even mornings. That means it is an environmental thing, not a food choice thing).

Anyways. Shan’t go on and on about this anymore since I have essay plans and projects and shit to do. Sighs. Guys, don’t assume you HAVE to pay. Girls, don’t assume you HAVE to be paid for. Then the world is a haaaaapppy grateful place. :3


Manichean Aesthetics – Everywhere

So I was reading this secondary reading on Manichean Asthetics for my South Asian Literature course. If you are not sure what the term means, Manichean dichotomy is basically a theory that views the world in binaries, possibly without grey areas. Like for instance: light versus dark, good versus bad.

The article applies the notion to colonialism, pointing out the series of double binds that the colonized are placed in due to the effect of colonization. One of the most crucial ones is probably the “savage” versus “vacant imitator” dichotomy. Basically, if the colonized chooses to stay by their own indigenous culture and reject colonial ideas, they are considered backward and savage. If they choose to accept and assimilate into colonial culture, they are considered “vacant imitators” who blindly follow others. Oh boy, is there nothing right a person can do.

Reading it I feel like like this form of unpleasant double bind is everywhere. Let me give you some examples:

  • A girl who is very picky is considered choosy and hard to please.
  • A girl who is easy going is considered “too easy a game”.

(I am not making the above up, I heard it from adult males, like seriously.)

Then more stuff comes along.

  • If you tell your partner something he did to upset you, you run the risk of offending him – especially if he thinks it is something unimportant therefore trivial – and he may in turn be upset by how “petty” you are.
  • If you don’t tell your partner about the annoying little thing he once did, chances are he may do it again and you will be upset again and it is not gonna sit well in the long run.

You see??

Being a human is really tough.

I have more examples:

  • If your angry mom scolds you and you try to justify and explain yourself, (some, mainly Asian) moms will see it as you being “disrespectful” and talking back to the authority.
  • If your angry mom scolds you and you stay silent – no that’s not a sign of your docility – it means you are being silently rebellious and “do you think being silent means you are not in hot soup?”

Bah. Double binds everywhere. More double binds:

  • If you tell your friends everything about you, it makes you very vulnerable if the day comes that you should fall out.
  • If you don’t tell your friends everything about you, it can come across as being not as sincere making it hard for you all to bond.

This one is easy, just tell them things you are comfortable with sharing. A quick survey with my classmates and friends all agree that everyone has a different threshold for sharing and need for privacy. Meaning, if they don’t want to tell you something, it is PERFECTLY normal. Really, it doesn’t mean they treasure you any less or place less importance on you.

I really like reading this article on Manichean Aesthetics. It is really thought provoking and though I think I am applying stuff all wrongly, it is still fun.

I need to stop with South Asian Literature and move on to Psychoanalysis. My Psycho-A is so dead.

Why I am blank

If you have ever had an experience with me whereby you are talking to me and realized that I am suddenly not focusing – i.e. staring at you with a vacant expression and nodding mindlessly, it means that my mind has teleported itself, against my will, to some far off place.

Today is the day when I become conscious of it happening to me. A lot.

Early morning on the bus, I had all sorts of weird questions running through my head, first one being…

“How are the buses in Singapore numbered? How come there is no bus 1 or 2 or 3…but all sorts of complicated large numbers like 963 and 990?”

(I went to google after that, and supposedly there is a pattern based on the area, but it is not specific enough to sate my curiosity.)

Halfway through pondering about the bus numbers, my mind interrupted itself to ask a philosophical question of…

“Why do some people have religions and some don’t? What is the role of religion in the believers? Can any system of belief become a religion through amassing a great number of followers? Can I start something like Potato-ism? (kidding) Some religious ideologies overlap with each other – so how come there is still religious tension? Why is it that Satanism is so frowned upon, since I have no idea what it entails but it sounds so scary?”

After that my brain hopped over when the bus jerked to a stop to think about how does the brake system work in buses. It is a hydraulic press system I think I read it somewhere before, but where is it hidden? How big is it? Why are there rocks in the train tracks in Singapore (btw, I googled again, it is to prevent growth of plants or something, if I remember correctly).

Right just now, I googled, “Why is my coffee so sour?”

Yes I bought a Starbucks brewed coffee and it is a true insult to the $4.30 I spend. For your curiosity, coffee is not sour because you add sugar (which I assumed) but sour because it is not brewed long enough to properly extract the essence of the beans or something. That results in tannic acid in the coffee that makes it sour. One extra knowledge you didn’t know.

How are the blocks in Singapore numbered? Are they random or are they following a system like buses? Who can I ACTUALLY ask this question to? Omg. I wanted to email the Land Transport Authority but I think they will think I am crazy…

Gosh. My brain is so distracted all the time. I need to learn how to focus.

What is the science behind focusing? GAHHHHHH!

Glum Day

The morning today began with dull grey skies, dark storm clouds and sheets of rain slashing against my window panes with a certain form of vengeance. I didn’t know why, but despite my lethargy and desire to keep sleeping more, I woke up at 7.30am when my alarm rang.

I spent the next 30 minutes in bed ruminating the glum looking sky and feel the gloom spread from the sky into my soul.

There were always days like this where I felt dark and moody and really, just completely cheerless. I call those my down days, when my system is malfunctioning and one of a down. I tried to remember my excitement and enthusiasm that had marked the past few days – these emotions feel so alien now I wonder if I am even the same person?

Actually, there is no real reason to be glum, as far as legit reasons are concerned. All I had was menstrual cramps, a constant pulling and gurgling sensation in my lower abdomen and a pain that radiated from my lower spine to my sides, blisters in my mouth and a swollen saliary gland. A quick check online always give me two conclusions – cancer and STDs. The possibily of either is probably near zero since STDs first requires S which is completely absent in my life, and as a teen-adult, I feel that I still stick to a relatively healthy diet.

Really, who else eats maggie mee less than 3 times a year? Me!

Thus the illnesses themselves did not bother me, but the pain of it did. Waking early was mild delightful in the sense that I could start working on my schoolwork, but the pain in my abdomen and back kept me from sitting still for long.

It ached. A lot.

The dull throbbing aches fed my growing irritation and at aroun 9am I gave up trying to read and write my notes for my NM2203 and flop back onto bed to watch Kitchen Nightmares instead. I blankly stare at Ramsay go through his routine of insulting the food – “bland”, “disgusting”, “horrifying” – after which he would extend his gracious hand of help. The episode I happen to play was less than interesting, and I lost interest after a while, going back to work.

I tried to take a good photo of my notes.

Sitting back down, the pain started to haunt me again and I was so peeved. Why must I succumb to this stupid dull ache that won’t leave me? I proceed to stretch myself gently then forcefully in an attempt to loosen whatever muscles that could be behind the pain. I was stiff all over and my joints cracked when I stretched.

There is really not much point to this blog entry except that I find writing or typing a really good way to rid myself of any negative vibes. This is why I am exceptionally quiet on days when I am down since I don’t have the spoken words to express how I feel. I don’t actually know how to communicate a negative feeling? Nor do I like communicating a negative feeling.

Tomorrow is definitely going to be a better day since today has hit an all time low for January 2017.


Things have not been going well this week.

For some reason I am down with fever since Monday afternoon and it progressively got worse to this moment, culminating at around 38.3. Okay I find the fever still tolerable, at least it means that I am not so cold? Neh, despite the heat of the fever, my extremities are freezing. Why? So fickle and typical of fever.

I have a essay due on Thursday midnight and I have nothing to hand in because I have no idea what is going on – this module confused me tremendously from the first moment. Like all right, I get the theories undergirding Modernism and Postmodernism. But how do I apply all this learning crammed within 1-2 lectures into an essay and sound like I actually know my stuff? This is good training in fluffing, an important skill in life.

I have an exam on Saturday morning 9am, which means I can’t even stay up late Friday night to study for it. On the bright side, I feel that I am partly confident for this module all thanks to Sherlyn who made me did some revision early. Sherlyn you are my life saver, for real <3

I tried to ask for an extension of essay deadline but it is not going to be granted unless 5 people in total asks for it.

I don’t think I have the social influence and popularity to mobilize 5 people into asking…do I even know 5 people in my lit class? Oh wait yes, it borders on “Hello! Bye!” kind of know. Besides fellow classmates who didn’t take 19th century or Feminism would have started on this one long ago…I do feel somewhat disadvantaged, but it is part and parcel of life!

The masochistic part of me is actually really thrilled by the tight deadline and high pressure – I know! I am like so damn masochistic. I complain, I demand sympathy and empathy and secretly I am like – “ain’t no diamonds be made without pressure!” So yes yes this is good training.

I am such a positive person!

Gahh, my stomach is rumbling louder than the distant thunder – I suspect it is a serious case of stomach flu since I feel nauseated and pained all the time. I have visited the washroom more times than necessary today and I am unable to drink any water because it makes me feel so sick.


As expected, one or two of my classmates need a extension of deadline but those who even have the briefest idea disagree to extension (sobs, ain’t no one gonna save my sick and sorry asses). Again, it is my own fault for not starting early, so I don’t really blame anyone…apart from me-self.

But! Like I say, pressure is good and wonderful.

I might actually craft another A grade essay…since Dr Yeo always rejects my essay outlines but ends up giving me A anyway. I guess maybe that’s his own way of pushing me to go beyond the comfortable simplistic argument and sinking into an irrevocable sense of academic stasis.

May the divine powers of your individual religions bless you all.

And may my highly intelligent, caffeine pumped brain be my source of salvage.

Boy I am arrogant. (Btw, if you believe any of the boasting above, you need to take a class EN1101E intro to lit – it is called sarcasm and hyperbole.)

Gods of Egypt (2016 Movie)

gods of egypt

Picture Credit: Source

I went to watch Gods of Egypt with YX yesterday, and boy I have been looking forward to this movie for quite a long time! I won’t say that it is that wonderful in terms of logic or plot, but I enjoyed the beauty of the costume designs as well as the (overwhelming) CGI effects.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

From the onset we are introduced to two moral characters, Beck and Zaya who are in love with each other. Beck is portrayed as a fast fingered thief who stole a beautiful dress for Zaya to wear for Horus’s upcoming coronation. She tries the dress, which is SUPER sexy and revealing (I love it), and of course it fits despite the fact that it is stolen and that a guy stole it. Because, movies.

Horus (the God of Sky) seems pretty irresponsible and unfit for the role of a god from the first sight. It is the morning of the coronation, and he is still sleeping peacefully in his bed, before waking up and having his maidservants bathe him. The goddess of love enters and massages him, and we are made privvy to a romantic relationship between two of them. At this moment, it seems much more flirtatious than anything serious, although we are also made to notice the glittering jewel bangle on the goddess’s arm – each jewel represents one of the demons that Horus has slain for her to rescue her from the demons. How she got there, we are told later, and be prepared for it to confuse you further.

So the coronation starts. The father of Horus is deeply adored by all his people (of Egypt) and they look happy with their new (immature, imo) god as a king. I suppose if you think about it, better an immature god as king than to have a cruel god right? We are also made cognizant of the innumerous other gods that are in charge of other things, example wisdom (the god is humorously conceited) and the goddess of protection, who has wings and is so stunningly beautiful that she distracts me from the movie. Anyhoos, halfway through coronation, Set (brother of Horus’s father) who is also the god of darkness, arrives and pretends to congratulate Horus, before revealing his intentions of usurping the position of the king. He stabs his brother, who collapses and bleeds GOLDEN blood, as Isis (Horus’s mom) watches on helplessly and cradles the dying old king. Goddess of protection rushes forth to shield them with her wings (again, breathtakingly beautiful) and Horus and Set fight. Of course we know that Horus will lose given all the signs that says “Hey this is actually a Bildungsroman. He needs to encounter a crisis and hardship before he can grow.”. Sounds very much likes Homer’s The Odyssey.

Anyways, Horus falls in defeat after an intense battle where they are transform into their cool metallic deity forms with a lot of cheating on Set’s behalf. Set stomps upon Horus’s chest, and digs out his eyes (you will be grateful for the golden blood – it is much less gory) because Horus’s eyes allows him to see his enemies’ attacks. Yes, it is slowly revealed that Set is just really good at stealing other god’s key traits, such as the wings from Goddess of Protection and also the brain from God of Knowledge. Then he will do this weird metal wielding thing to transplant all this stuff into himself. Bah. Revolting.

Horus runs away blind. And from here it gets kinda sian for me because firstly it annoys me that Horus is kinda cowardly and ultimately requires the help of a mortal to help him find back his determination, and also because whilst I greatly detest Set, Horus isn’t really that much better at the start. It is like, Horus or Set? Answer: All false.

Some moving parts are present, such as when the Goddess of Love gives her bracelet to Beck so that he could get to see Zaya (although that is really just weird, because why would Anubis (god of afterworld) allow it?) Some parts that are a bit frail on the logic here and  there – what I did was to just ignore the logical sequence and just admire the costumes and abs of the characters.

I enjoyed the movie partly coz YX and I got couple seats (JX, you jelly?) and it was quite fun to be talking about stuff throughout. Our seats were rather too in front, so not the most optimal for this movie that has too many zooming in and out with the scene spinning or swinging around. I had to close my eyes at some points to allay my giddiness. Gah.

Super fun day, got a bit emo towards the end coz Meh couldn’t join us, so we sat in SMU, with our skates on and emoing. Gah. Meh you are so important to us haha (totally not guilt-tripping you).

I want to see more movies soon. Especially horror. I miss them horror shows.

The Negativity Spiral

There is something called the negativity spiral. All of us will experience it at some point of time.

A typical negativity process for me goes like this:


I have an algorithm for solving root causes of negativity. But that will be in another post. Causes of negativity can be manifold. For instance, if you are feeling stressed out by school work, you need to work more efficiently. If you are stressed out by your parents, talk to them. If you are missing your partner, go call them. Take the initiative and don’t sit around waiting for them to call.

What is needed to solve the root causes?

negativity 2

Basically for me, I need to take deep breaths, calm down and write down a list of possible things that could have been affecting my mood. After which, I will rank them according to what I think is the most urgent problem (usually something that is most linked to my mood) and what is the most solvable. Based on the ranking, I will then solve the problems.

But. For the entirety of last week, I was stuck in a negativity loop. It looked something like that.

negativity loop

It sucked. It was like a vortex (get it?).

I couldn’t get out of the loop. I couldn’t stop the barrage of negativity from raining upon me like some accursed never ending hailstorm, whacking me left right and center. I felt no love. I was full of hate. I was distressed, desolate and eventually despondent.

Hell, I didn’t even want  to try to break out of the negativity cycle.

I was tired of being rational and logical all the time.

My armor of sanity got torn and tattered and the crazy monster within me was roaring to be let loose. I wanted to screech like a banshee, claw like a fiend and go on a rampage just hating on things. I wanted blood.

Just kidding.

I was negative. Not murderous.

Okay, maybe a little. But more like suicidal than murderous. Maybe not really suicidal. Just, like I said, negative. With negative outlooks.


And I hated it when people took my problems lightly by telling me with almost a laissez-faire attitude that I need to sort my crap out and pull myself together. Thankfully few to none of my friends did that.

The thing you have to know about a negativity loop is that, it is called a LOOP for a reason. It is in nature very much like a vortex. It swirls around endlessly into a deep hole of hellish doom. Any little trigger or irritation just became a fuel to worsen the whole loop, setting it into a perpetual motion.

I would have included more interesting diagrams. But drawing them is really tiring, and also, I am rather lazy.

Imagine a mopey little thing dragging herself around with a sad frown on her face like the whole world has done her wrong. The whole repugnant victim complex. The utter and complete resignation and lack of self worth. That was me. For an entire week.

In between the moments of negativity where common sense grabbed hold of me, I tried to pull myself out of the whirlpool. At vague moments I almost succeeded. I tried to talk to my friends. I try to think positive. I try to list down the things I had to do. I try to read books and escape into Dystopian societies that make my own world look like it farts rainbows.

They almost worked. But then I eventually got tired of trying.


It took me the entirety of Saturday (today) to more or less pull myself together. I had great help from my best friends. Meh, YX, JY and of course JX who listened to me cry and rant for an hour, sacrificing his sleep. I realized that sometimes the meaning of life isn’t presented to me on a nice porcelain plate adorned with rose petals. It didn’t come to me in the form of a scripture of a textbook that I could buy in Popular. It didn’t come to me in the form of grand epiphanies or glowing moments of enlightenment.

It came to me in gradual moments of almost reluctant acceptance and a self-precipitated zeal for the future.

It came to me in the gratitude that I have for the people I love and the people who love me.

It came to me in small fragments of things which I often overlook and take for granted.

I know this is probably not the last time I would be caught in a negativity loop. But I know, the next time when I face it, I will be more prepared and less helpless. I will also know that sometimes, just sometimes, it is okay to be insane and illogical for a couple of hours or days – only remember, don’t like the negativity define you.


I used to think that promises and declarations of love are supposed to last forever.

Experience has allowed me to figure out that such things have an expiry date.

Perhaps one of the most ridiculous promises would be something along the lines of “I promise I will never leave you through thick and thin”. Well the thick and thin comes and the promise vanishes like last summer’s memories.

Maybe love isn’t in the solemnity of promises, nor the grandeur of words or “to-the-moon-and-back”s.

Maybe love is not in the things that we do for each other.

Maybe, it is about the things that I don’t do knowing it would upset my loved one, and in the words that I don’t say in moments of anger, because even in my most upset moments, hurting them hurts me. Too.

Maybe, just maybe, love is not about waiting for you to realize my needs but about open and sincere communications telling each other what we need. Open communications open hearts.

When I love you I try to understand your point of view and I try to share mine, however afraid. We wouldn’t want a miscommunication to stand in the way.

I would have my insecurities, I would have my doubts, but I will live better knowing that you are there to share my doubts and fears and you would in your own way assuage my uncertainties like how I would calm yours. I would trust you wisely and love you with an open heart and open mind.

There may be a day where apocalypse comes, there may also be a day where the sun implodes, but there will not be a day where I stop loving you. 

Therein lies the beauty of the unknown, the excitement of the wait and the exhilaration of reunion.

Of Hell and Pain

“Hell needs not be constructed against the stereotypical background of raging conflagration and demons with horns.”

Indeed it doesn’t.

Hell can be literal. It can be metaphoric. It could be a hyperbole.

It does not need to be constructed against the dichotomous notion of heaven: there isn’t just Hell at one end and then Heaven at the other end. It is a continuous variable constructed on an imaginary HELL-HEAVEN spectrum. It can possibly look something like this:

Hell with Satan –> Hell without Satan –> Temporary Hell –> Kinda Hell –> Hyperbolic Hell –> Slightly morose life –> Neutral life –> Better than neutral life –> Good life! –> Semblance to Heaven –> Heaven? –> Heaven! –> Heaven with angels and harp

Okay, that was really a whole bunch of nonsense. If you read it and believed it, I feel so sorry for you buying all the nonsense that I have conjured out of nothing.

Oh, and just in case any religious zealots see this as a post condemning or insulting religion or what not, please don’t. By Hell and Heaven I am in no way referring to any religion. Instead imagine Hell and Heaven as in those in popular fiction novels and stuff like that. And if this post is going to offend you, please don’t read it and then allow yourself to be offended and then offend me back by sending me hate mails. (Although I do like reading hate mails.)

What was I saying?

Oh yes, Hell doesn’t have to be underground. (Yeah wonder why must hell be underground and heaven be up in the sky?? I mean, in the skies it is cold and freezing, and underground is warm and toasty. And of course underground you would have much less chance of falling and dying.)

Okay, I can’t even remember what I wanted to say. I wanted to tell you all that once I felt like I was in hell. For maybe a month to two? But then I found a coping mechanism which is pain.

It is not what you think. I wasn’t self-harming, so please don’t freak out.

I have a feeling that you are going to freak out anyway, so here is a disclaimer: I didn’t cut myself or anything like that or try to throw myself off stairs to deliberately injure myself. In fact I live a rather safe life watching out for traffic, avoiding cars, avoiding falling objects and treasuring my life.

What I meant is that I developed a higher tolerance for pain. Constructive pain, that is.

Do you remember when I fell off the bus when I was in JC1? My elbow and my knees were horribly mangled from the fall and I cried when I saw how bad it was. I had a lower tolerance for pain and blood then.

I think I am better now.

Which is a triumphant twist for me – it makes picking up new skills like skating and other-potentially-painful activities a lot easier.

Okay I will not digress from the topic.

Basically I discovered that I wasn’t as adverse to the whole idea of getting injured as I was before. And in the past couple of months, I have developed more bruises from skating practice than I have had in my entire adolescence life (starting from the point when I stopped tripping over my own feet).
I wasn’t particularly affected by the cuts, bruises and abrasions. Some of the injuries are worse, some better.

I am secretly proud of myself for being so emotionless in acquiring these bruises.

Physical bruises heal. It is all a matter of time.

The skills picked up are permanent.

So all in all, it is pretty much worth it.

So yep, I wasn’t very careful in trying to avoid falling or injuring myself during practice. I wasn’t being very safe. It was fine though, since I was still alive and kicking.

(I can’t remember what else to write, so I would end this post here.)

It is not easy to teach (tutor)

Almost all these time I have been a student.

A student at school, a student at a tuition center. Listening to people who are older and more experienced than me tell me about all the things that I may or may not already know, whilst silently judging them in their capacity as a teacher.

As a student, I think I must have been one of the harshest and most picky ones. I mean there are students out there who can see the good points in every single teacher and appreciate their own way of passing on their knowledge to the posterity. If there are such angels out there, well, the laws of physics (hur hur just kidding, like I would know any laws of physics, Newton’s aside) dictate that there would be devils like myself who are the most unforgiving critics.

I remember my own train of thoughts as a student who sat through lectures, tutorials or enrichment lessons. Indeed, some of the lessons were particularly well crafted, enlightening and even absorbing. Then there were those that were horribly dry, nastily confusing or even just tangential. To the lessons belonging to the latter group, I remember my inner consciousness keeping up a tirade, including silent grumbles about that being a waste of time (if it were compulsory) or a waste of money (if it were enrichment), and sometimes wondering if the teacher had prepared the lesson at all.

Now, I even remember not liking to nod at my own tutor (for enrichment lessons) when he or she looked at me during the lesson simply because I wasn’t really the type to look over enthusiastic or eager. I liked keeping up my cool, calm and collected front, you know, the facade of absolute nonchalance that nothing can ever shake. I can also vaguely recall my tutor asking me time and again, “Do you understand?” and my own composed (see, there’s the word again) replies of yes, which would almost always be followed by the next question, “Are you sure?”

At that moment, I had thought it was mildly funny that I would be asked if I was sure I had understood something: I mean, wouldn’t I know if I had not completely grasped something?
My tutor’s concern were read by me to be a standard operating procedure, slightly funny, sometimes ickish (I think there is no such term, haiz).

There must be something like karma, because I am now finally understanding how it feels like to be the one teaching and wondering (after hours of tedious explanation) whether your listener has understood anything.

Woe betide karma and retribution. *wryly*

Since our holidays are long and I wouldn’t want to be a freeloader at my own household of busy people, I decided to tutor some students. Although it is not my first time tutoring other people (for money), it is the first time that I am teaching older kids (i.e. no longer in primary school), and the experience was truly worth me reflecting on.

Here is the story.

(In case you are wondering why I sound so abrupt and jerky, it might be symptoms of post-traumatic disorder. Joking really^^.)

I had to teach this secondary three boy Maths, Chemistry and Physics. Let’s call him Peter since Peter has a nice ring to it. The maths lesson we had together was on Monday (this week). Today we did physics.

Both lessons felt horrible.

No, it wasn’t because of him at all. Peter is a bright student who is currently in an academic crisis because he doesn’t study at all. No seriously. Like all he does is his homework assigned at school, at what I believe to be a breakneck speed, and then enjoy his youth for the rest of the day.

Our Physics lessons went roughly like that today:

*I explain a simple concept made tedious by my own fumbling with words. I might have trouble with coherency, hmm.*

Me: So do you get it?

Peter: *pauses* Mmm *nods*

Me: You sure?

Peter: *nods once*

So that part was okay. Apart from the fact that I was doing exactly  what all my concerned tutors were doing, which is to desperately look for some signs of affirmation that what was being explained had somehow sunk into the child’s head. And I kept wondering how to fish an affirmation out of Peter without looking like I was doubting his intelligence (which I was not). I really just wanted to know that he wasn’t wasting his time and money.

There was a horrible part where I was explaining about scalars and vectors and all the vernier caliper measurements. It was made more terrible by several other factors:

  • I prepared kinematics not measurements today (since I assumed that their school was doing that)
  • I hated and sucked at reading teeny tiny weensy scales because I am supremely shortsighted.
  • I was extremely nervous when I am trying to explain something in which I have no confidence
In the roomy room, all I could hear was my own voice blabbering on and on in this high pitched almost nasally tone, punctuated with my even higher pitched erms and uhhhs because I was that horribly nervous. For once, I was so thankful for the whirring sound of the ancient fan at home because without it, I think I could hear the crickets chirping in the distance.

It was awkward.

No wait, it was beyond awkward.

In fact, within 15 minutes I was sweating so much that I had to tie up my hair (I was leaving it down to dry post showering) and fanning myself because I was afraid that I couldn’t get my point across clearly.

It didn’t help that my tongue seemed to grow shorter (Or longer? Should’ve measure it!) when I am nervous. It resulted in a series of most embarrassing stutters and stumbles in my words, not to mention that I almost bit my tongue once because I was so freaked.

The stutters went something like that:

Me: “The dis- distance moved, no I mean displac- actually dis- distance, sowe- I mean sorry ARGH WHAT IS WONG WIP NE, I mean what’s wrong with me!”

If you think I am losing all my composure (which I so treasure) because my student is a hot guy, well you have gotten it wrong. I am losing my head because everything that made perfect sense in my head seemed to stop making sense when I vocalize them.

That is kind of sad, isn’t it?

The even harder part is when I felt like I didn’t dare to ask Peter if he could understand too often (even though I already asked a lot) was because I didn’t know him well. I thought my fear of him would be overcome if I could just get to know him a bit more.

Knowing him was hard. He didn’t like to talk.

It went like that:

Me:  Have you eaten?
Peter: *shakes head*
Me: Are you hungry?
Peter: *shakes head*
Me: Do you want to eat something? Like snack?
Peter: *shakes head*
Me: Oh okay then.

At that moment I recalled my GP lesson with my tutor:

Tutor: What’s wrong with you?
Me: Nothing.
Tutor: No, there’s something wrong with you.
Me: There is?
Tutor: You look unfocused and out of sorts today. (something like that, I think?)
Me: Huh?
Tutor: Yeah, I think you are on the edge of a mental/psychological breakdown.

At that time, I was partly freaked out, and partly amused. (I really didn’t think I was on the brink of a psychological breakdown, I mean, com’on, I sleep excellently!) On the hindsight, the tutor felt pretty caring: why would he care whether I was losing my marbles?! In fact, most of my tutors were caring~!

Not only so, I couldn’t make myself say cheesy encouragement lines because as a student, I disliked those intensely. I also didn’t dare to make any promises because much of the results were going to be dependent on how much effort he was going to put in. I didn’t dare to be cheery and optimistic because it felt weird to be cheery when the student was almost glum looking.

In short, I didn’t know how to be useful.

Behold the feeling of uselessness.

There were so much things that I almost said but whenever I took a breath, I ended up exhaling. The cynic in me scoffed at every encouragement I could think of:

(italics: hopeful me vs normal text: cynical me)

It will get better.
No it won’t. It won’t get better unless you spend 2 hours a day memorizing and doing practices. Just an hour half with me isn’t going to suffice. Furthermore, how would you know?

I have absolute faith in you.
Yeah, but not myself.

Physics is about understanding the concepts, learning the examples, and improving by practicing. I am sure you can do it!
Who are you to preach?!

Look, just let me know if you have anything I can help you with okay? I will do my best to help you.
Argh to the cheese.

Basically I couldn’t say it. Everything that I wanted to say felt incredibly patronizing even though I was sincere at that moment.

The worst part was that despite preparing for the lesson for almost two to three hours before hand, I had to change my lesson plans (as mentioned) when I realized that we couldn’t be too ahead of the school schedule. The abrupt changes ate away at my confidence, too.

When the lesson was ending, I was almost fearful of assigning homework: what if I stressed him out? Would he do it? Is it too much or too little????

Thus at the end of the first lesson of maths and physics, I wanted to sit down, whack myself across the head and bemoan my incompetence. I felt both apologetic and guilty towards Peter because I felt like I had taught him nothing that was of key importance.

The salvation came when he said that he could understand and felt that he had learnt something. Not to me, but to my mom. (Thank god my mom has a natural affinity for children.) I felt like I was being relieved of the burdened that I carried for the entirety of the lesson.

I felt revitalized and hopeful.

It was then I abruptly recalled why my teachers had always asked some of us privately, after a lesson whether we could follow her/his train of thoughts. Our teacher aren’t us, hence there was almost no way for them to be completely sure of what we knew and what we didn’t. They had to watch our expressions and body language for signs of affirmation, as I had tried to hard to that day. It was so easy for one to feel like one is “talking to myself” and silences were always so dreadfully awkward.

If it was so hard for me sitting down next to a person, I couldn’t imagine how it would be like before a classroom full of people looking at you (or sleeping, yikes).

I always thought I knew a lot about what an excellent teacher should be like till I tried and failed miserably this time (I don’t know why, but I think I taught better when I was in Secondary 1).

I am still in the midst of improving myself to explain clearer, teach better, and keep my composure as a tutor.

But next time, I think I will also know how to be a much better student! ^^