Music and Endless Wintering

“Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.”
― Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

 

Last night saw the revival of my 7-year-old iPod (above), opening an emotional floodgate of memories tagged to songs from another lifetime. Despite being in a badly scratched and battered state after years of abuse in the studio, it played just fine. I recall purchasing this as a fresh undergraduate who had just fallen so hard for dance and was ready to give up the world just so I could dance forever. On days when nothing else made sense but songs and movement, I was plugged into my iPod, lost in beats.

At 19, I was a dance instructor earning my keep. Pretty much everyone I knew joked that I was the part-time student and full-time dancer. I would skip classes for show rehearsals, then stay up all night after dance classes to do a half-assed job on assignments. I neglected a lot (of people and circumstances) just so I could dance. When I bothered to show up in lectures I was the hard-to-reach girl perpetually in baggy Tees and flashy dance shoes, who never stayed to chat with my Professors as I would be rushing off to dance. I’m blessed with parents who never questioned my passion even on days when I got home after rehearsals at 3am and had to be up for school in 5 hours.

Music was my high and music was my low. I danced hard out of passion. It was a vent for all my frustrations and a channel to my joys. In itself a process and not means to an end, I enjoyed dance rehearsals more than the actual showcase. I didn’t dance for fame – I was and am just as happy grooving in my own bedroom, eyes closed. More ways than one, dance is a bridge to emotional states I could never quite cross.

Eventually when I got my psychology degree, I knew my love affair with dance was to end. During my final semester reality struck hard – I was never meant to be a dancer. I was too ambitious and scared to be led by fluffy, unstable dreams. Much as I am passion-driven, I would first and foremost be a logical being with my emotions suppressed. A lot of decisions I now make are rooted in that part of me.

Last night, realization struck that I’m not the same person I was 7 years ago. Just as I often did I was in an open space, plugged into my old iPod, yet the familiar highs and sorrows evaded me while listening to songs I once loved. I used to be so harsh on myself – I would never allow myself to forget a step. Yet I don’t feel a sense of loss now at not remembering dance steps which once branded my muscles like a memory or a scar. Memories fade, as do priorities. Many things which once mattered so much to me, or even once meant the world to me, didn’t matter any more. I had playlists marked ‘To Learn’ or ‘Practice’ with music which were once looped over and over. Now they no longer made any sense. Other songs were sectioned into playlists by genre, mood and artistes, including a playlist just for ‘Recorded Lectures’ which I taped when my heart and soul wasn’t in the classroom with me  Even in an inconsequential iPod my life was logically compartmentalized.

Logic speaks for the mind. Even with evolving circumstances and passing time, I would always be reduced to a state of logical reasoning. Above all, my thoughts overcome my heart. At certain points in time we’re bound to feel lightning flashes of passion and heat – but could they endure the endless wintering of time? Or are they only good at offering escape and a state of trance.

Food for thought on this Sunday night.
I still miss.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[DIARY] COME AND GO

“We the mortals touch the metals,
the wind, the ocean shores, the stones,
knowing they will go on, inert or burning,
and I was discovering, naming all the these things:
it was my destiny to love and say goodbye.”
Pablo Neruda, Still Another Day

Breathing to the rhythm of waves;
watch them crash and leave the shore.
They come and go just like everybody else.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[DIARY] LOVE YOUR IMPERFECTIONS

Jean Li (Singapore) - Viktoria Jean

31 days into 2015 and it has been surreal. I’ve been thankful each day for the people I’ve met, especially to those I’ve learnt to count on for simply being there.

The obstacles in my current career are finally levelling out. I’m beginning to understand why some of my colleagues would fall in love with this jet-setting lifestyle. Don’t be fooled – good money and free travel comes at a price. When I tell my friends about the hardships we face on a daily basis, everyone rethinks the facade of a glamorous lifestyle we lead. A certain kind of sadism cannot be denied (of me) since I’ve stayed beyond my 2-year bond not for the money but the sheer intensity of hard work involved. I love challenges and when they come my way, they become means of making me a better person, because the process of clearing major hurdles forces one into endless introspection.

I like to think that what I’ve really done in this past 2 years was to experience the world, gather my thoughts on living, get to know a lot more people. And then I really want to write them down. Whilst I will leave my job, the journey is not over. For those who can live vicariously through my words someday I hope you know that life is about giving and receiving experiences, not the things you buy or get to keep. I also know that life is not about making sure something or somebody stays in your life as long as possible when you know they are not yours to keep.

2015, I don’t expect you to be awesome. I foresee bad days, heartaches, disappointment and yet another emotional roller coaster ride. But I trust myself to know that when 2015 comes to an end I’ll emerge triumphant with battle scars that makes me both imperfect and wiser. This is what we have to do.

Accumulate experiences like it is the air you have to breathe, for in time to come we’ll have our own stories to tell. Tell yourself to keep going, run the extra mile, and don’t be afraid to fight losing battles, or to lose. Never lose sight of who you were. Never forget who was there for you when you needed them the most. Most importantly, never fall out of love with yourself. Love who you are, and appreciate who you’re not. Embrace and acknowledge all your imperfections. Because the most imperfect people have been through the worst.

“I am not a graceful person. I am not a Sunday morning or a Friday sunset. I am a Tuesday 2 a.m., gunshots muffled by a few city blocks, I am a broken window during February. My bones crack on a nightly basis. I fall from elegance with a dull thud, and I apologize for my awkward sadness. I sometimes believe that I don’t belong around people, that I belong to all the leap days that didn’t happen. The way light and darkness mix under my skin has become a storm. You don’t see the lightning, but you hear the echoes.”
Anna Peters

I want to hear some good stories when December 31st comes round.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

viktoriajean

[DIARY] ONE LESS STRANGER

A sleepless night was spent following tweets on AirBnB’s #OneLessStranger campaign. Tired and insomniac as I was, I couldn’t help applauding the global movement to connect people across cultures, to eliminate the distance we keep with people we don’t intend to know. To be on the receiving end of a thoughtful deed from a stranger – it is a simple, solitary gesture with wide-reaching resonance.

I gave the campaign some thought. What’s the point in reaching out to a stranger. Sometimes we don’t even know the person we share our last name with. How much value-add can one less stranger be? So yes it’s impossible to tag a price on gaining unlikely acquaintances. But at its core if we each know the value of having one less stranger, we would not hear of hotel sieges, terror bombings or impending nuclear wars.

I love quoting my favourite author – Haruki Murakami tells us things about ourselves we do not even know, sans big words and complexity. I would love to debate long and hard on this line:”But what seems like a reasonable distance to one person might feel too far to somebody else.” How far should you be from a stranger? How much distance should you keep from a friend, a lover? Could you draw a boundary with a firm hand and keep it? 2 people, side by side, can be worlds apart. Distances are at once tangibly physical and entirely, subjectively emotional.

January is time to begin with a new frame of mind. If I didn’t know better, 2014 was a turbulent year for many, as was the last and the year before, but that should not be grounds for excuses we tell ourselves from discarding poisonous, harmful thoughts.

We’re all on this earth for a limited time, so let’s not be strangers.

And with that said, January is already ending. I hope 2015 had been as eventful for you as it had been so far for me. Let’s keep this party rolling.

SNOW 2015

 

P.S Caught my first snowfall of 2015 in Frankfurt! I love Winter.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

 

[DIARY] True Stories of Lucid Dreaming and Sleep Paralysis

Lately I’ve been experiencing lucid dreaming, in which I find myself in total control of when or where I get to cease a dream. It’s been contended that this period of dreaming is not a state of sleep but a period of wakefulness. I beg to differ. How could a wakeful phase occupy such an extensive period of restfulness?

Just last night in Melbourne, I fell asleep from 2am to 10am. In between, I never woke up nor felt the need to. Throughout the whole time I was lucid dreaming. I mean, I knew I was dreaming. I knew I could control when to wake up. I knew nothing was real. My family and I were going through this vivid life-threatening adventure of trying to survive many trials and tribulations in a game-like setting. Almost like those books in which you choose your ending! The scenes were constantly changing to put us in a series of threatening environments. First there was a flood and earthquake, so we were forced to climb out from our second apartment on the 30th floor and enter this arena. I let everybody else step on me in order to climb the hell out. We had to waddles across mud, swim across crocodile and bird-infested swamps. And we fought gigantic purple dinosaur-like creatures to move on to the next level! Is this some kind of 3D animation game? Then we had to eliminate another family with our bare hands, and I did, knowing that it was just a dream. Don’t ask me how I did it. And when it was all over, we returned to our 30th floor apartment like it all never happened, and I (very calmly) opened my delivery package which was a whole box full of Pierre Hermes macarons from Paris (yay!)

Not the first time I’ve had this kind of dreams. Does everyone else get that a lot too?


SLEEP PARALYSIS
DISCLAIMER: Do not read on if you’re afraid of the supernatural, or just afraid.

Close to 2 years ago I started this flying job which involved sleeping alone in multiple unfamiliar hotels and rooms. Very quickly I overcame issues of sleeping on foreign beds, and learnt to ignore ambiguous late-night noises. It doesn’t help that I love watching horror shows, and occasionally those horrific scenes do come back to haunt me. I remember being very freaked out once, alone in a hotel room in Osaka, when I was fully aware of descending into a state of total sleep paralysis. It was my first time feeling a total sleep paralysis.

Hotels in Japan are typically reputed to rank high on international Haunted Hotel lists. So there I was, one evening, tired out from having shopped the day away at Shinsaibashi, lying in bed for a short nap in order to gear up for an overnight flight, when I started hearing heavy footsteps in the room directly above me. Nothing scary right? Walls of Japanese rooms are built hollow and earthquake-proof, to prevent collapse. The footsteps got louder, then faster, then impossibly fast – it started to sound like somebody was actually running with heavy boots on. I was wearing my fluffy eyeshades, as usual, since I hardly turn off all the lights whenever I go to bed overseas.

Too tired to feel scared, I decided to just ignore and try harder to go to sleep. Then it happened. Physically, I’d experienced a sudden electrical shock to my brains, before feeling my entire body shut down. Instead of darkness, my eyes were seeing blinding white light behind my shut eyelids. My limbs were dead weight and completely immoveable. I couldn’t even flutter an eyelid because they felt dead heavy. The footsteps I was hearing continued to pick up speed until it reached a point where loud noise blended into a hollowed out total silence. In my head I was mustering strength to move and trying to scream for help, which will not come since I stayed alone.

The pounding footsteps could be heard periodically, now it seemed only in my head and not from the floor above me. Throughout this whole time, I was convincing myself that if I threw aside my eyeshades and saw anything/anybody, I would face it calmly. Though my eyes were closed, I was seeing shadows, moving lights and trails of blazing white, as if the lights were like white hot currents running across my line of vision. There’s a Chinese saying that this kind of paralysis was akin to 鬼壓身 (literally ghost pressing onto your body). It is exactly what this felt like. An unknown source of weight or power pressing you down. Strangely, when I tried to scream, I could feel air gushing through, but just no sound whatsoever. Perhaps I was screaming, just unable to hear myself. Whatever it is, my limbs were useless at this point in time, so might as well tide it through.

I knew physical control was returning to me when the footsteps slash pounding noises in my head were getting slower and softer. Perhaps due to fear the episode seemed to last forever though it might have only been minutes. It was gradual – this ascend back from sleep paralysis. I could feel strength returning, and attempted to flutter my eyelids once more. When strength finally returned to my limbs, I threw aside my eyeshades with vengeance, only to discover the room as it was, and that 2 hours had passed since I last checked the time before plopping onto bed.

I try not to read too much into it, just take it that I was so physically tired my body fell asleep before my mind could shut down. Or perhaps my mind was still running on caffeine and could not go into sleep mode. But what’s with the footsteps? Friends in the medical faculty advised that perhaps I was hearing blood pumping through my arteries. I wouldn’t doubt that. I guess most of my colleagues would attest to having their own encounters, however small or insignificant it may seem. Since the episode, off and on, I’ve been reading up on sleep paralysis – accounts from people who believe in supernatural causes and also from people who prefer to believe in scientific reasons. I choose to leave all options open, in believing that in all dimensions the possibility of encountering something ‘out-of-this-world’ is not entirely impossible.

Believe what you may.

 

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Reflections – On Life’s New Undertakings

For the best part of 2014, I thought my gap year was turning into a gap lifetime. In 2013 my bachelor’s degree in psychology was fresh meat from the chopping block, and in 2014 I’m sitting on decaying sheets of qualification, swatting at hungry flies. In a world where sitting on your laurels is success (and causatively, happiness)’s greatest nemesis, hitting a dead end in career progression scares the shit out of any living soul. So imagine my joy at finally scraping my mind out of an inherent gutter. Comfort is indeed a painful skin to shed.

Having embarked on a career almost 2 years ago, my life revolved around endless globetrotting, walking from country to country (albeit 30,000 feet above the sea), losing days of sleep, accumulating eye-bags, and waking up in different hotels in foreign cities night after night. At the beginning, I’d regrettably wasted a great deal of time letting fatigue and timezone differences beat the crap out of me. I surrendered to being lazy! *gasp* This past few months, I’m glad to finally say that I’ve settled into my job, learned how to raise my energy levels and the ability to focus beyond everyday mundane activities. While many more challenges still lay ahead, I am no longer bound to limits of tunnel vision.

My arsenal of life experiences opens a floodgate of nostalgic sentiments: I’ve had the best cappuccinos in London, excited my tastebuds with India’s local spiced curry, sampled Japan’s freshest sashimi, cycled across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, lived to see sunrise on Santorini, ran my fingers along washed-out travertine stone walls of Rome’s Colosseum… etc etc. Ask any of us in the profession and we will share a multitude of touch-and-go, been-there-done-that travel tales. Stories like these make for great rainy day anecdotes for my future as-yet-non-existent grandchildren. In short, I’ve lived.

Which leads me to my next point. Along the spectrum of time, how much further can I go before the need to seek higher aspiration sets in? Try as I may, I cannot escape the need for self-definition. I didn’t give a damn before, but certain words of advice now rings true. Could I really give up years of tertiary education and have my life recounted along the lines of “she has given her life to air-hostessing for 35 passionate years”? That I was a professional in providing service is an excellent accreditation if I were to decide here and now to devote my life to it. I would, if I could fall in love with my job. Any minute now, please.

Truth is, everybody loves travelling. But how different is it from uprooting when you’re hardly home for the best (or worst) parts of your loved ones’ lives? I hadn’t realised (or rather, my family members neglected to update) that my paternal aunt in Melbourne had passed on earlier in June until I was bound for a Melbourne-flight in August and enquired to visit her family. Amidst all the time differences, I’ve lost a sense of anchor and became flightier than ever. In my mother’s words, I’m never going to settle down.

But I am taking small steps. New undertakings in self-improvements, regular courses and a routine to keep my feet on the ground. Clearing up the mess I’ve previously made of my life and starting anew. Starting somewhere is what we’ve all gotta do.

So a post-graduate course seems to be in order. I suppose clearing up one’s act is part and parcel of sailing into your mid-20s. Sincerely, I hope the path ahead is clearer once I get started on my graduate studies.

Writing is, was and will always be a huge part of my life. On par with it is my love for dance, my craving for a lifetime of learning, and delegating time to enjoying the simple things in life with my friends and family. For the record, I will not regret that I’ve not chosen to do a masters in english literature because that would mean, once again, letting comfort and pleasure take over. Some may feel that their one-true-calling lies in their ultimate guilty pleasure. I love curling up in bed with a great book, with my feet up, and a cuppa hot coffee. It is however not a professional pathway I would choose. I shall celebrate my great love for literature by remaining its biggest fan.

For the rest of 2014, I hope to take things in stride.  Learning that integrating changes into my life instead of cutting off a limb for prosthetics in my biggest lesson this year. Life’s new undertakings never needs to be disruptive. Life’s new undertakings can be a breath of fresh air in your existing bed of roses.

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HOW DO I

HOW DO I

How do I sleep with voices in my head –
telling me what to do, what to say,
who to love
in a torrential rain of unspoken words,
this cascade of love misplaced
from desired keepers
whose intentions long expired;
all memories are deadweight.

How do I sleep with footsteps in my head –
walking miles into a receding path
of all that’s forgotten
bursting from dams across distant shores
like prisoners newly reprieved;
we are dredged up beached whales
awaiting a death sentence
we hardly know is coming.

How do I sleep with a bullet in my head –
point blank fired,
lodged in a hollow in the shape of you. 

How do I sleep with these raindrops in my head –
a constant drip-drop, walls a-stripping
till what’s left to fend against (you)
is but a thin membrane.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

How do I