“Home is where somebody notices when you are no longer there. ” ― Aleksandar Hemon

I suppose it’s time I venture into the sentimental, for I’m moving out today to plunge, wholly and headlong, into an entirely new environment.

I used to be a social chameleon, adapting and altering myself to the people I meet such that I’d blend in most cohesively – I shouldn’t be scared of meeting new people, yet I am. The people I’ll be meeting over the next couple days are those whom I’ll be living with over the next two years – half my university career. And since I’m not much of an extrovert (contrary to popular belief – or oddly enough, the belief of my teachers), I stand, a wreck of nerves, now, over my luggage as I chuck the final contents on my packing list in it.

I’m going to university.

More than that, I’m going to be removed from the little, breakable bubble of bliss I’ve built around myself over the past six years.

My best friends are leaving. One for the comforts of rain, bagpipes and haggis and the other for the straight academic success she’s destined for, or so I believe. I’m leaving an environment that I’ve grown to love and thrive in over the past six years, and I’m hardly sure if I’ll be able to come to terms with this fact.

For someone who’s wanted to get away and live independently for so long, I can’t quite fathom the broth of emotions broiling from the pits of my stomach right now. I didn’t think I’d miss my mom so much, given all the disagreements and quarrels we’ve had – and trust me, there were loads, almost too much, of that. But for all the moments I swore I hated her for her near absurd expectations, rules and the control she demands, there’s equally times I was indulged and pampered by her – times I’m more than grateful for.

There’s always been this invisible line drawn across the family – my dad and brother on one side and my mom and I on the other. My mom’s always been on my side, and I’ve always been on hers. Now that I’m not going to be home most of the week, she’s going to be alone in having to deal with my dad and brother, both of whom frustrate her to no end, and I feel slightly guilty for it.
And I know she’s going to worry when I’m away.

It’s strange to find myself so sentimental when months ago I was so close to deciding on moving for London.

I need to get on with packing and have dinner before we head out for my college camp. Am I doubting my decision to move out? Definitely. But am I going to get my shit together by the time I arrive at university? Probably, and if I’m not, I’ll just have to remind myself that at the end of my university career sits a glowing acceptance letter into Oxford’s post-grad programme.

And off I’ll go on my little adventure.

I’ll be a college kid in a week

I had over six months to crash and unwind following my A-Levels and I’m not sure where all that time went, because I’m headed to college in a week. In fact, I’ll start moving into my dorm in four days, before the revels and general (unbearable) ruckus of orientation begins.

Honestly, where has all that time gone?!

I had all that time to spend with my friends who’re all headed off to far off corners of the world soon but now I’m here, scheming with my best friend to sneak her into my dorm so we can watch old films and play tabletop games. (Or she can do all that in a corner while I go through an essay crisis.) Preposterous!

For the next four years I’ll be bound – not contractually, but by the money my parents are spending on my education (which is similar or worse, I think) – to this university and its people, before I graduate with a degree that’ll hopefully get me into a decent Masters and PhD programme. And then we’ll see if I’m cut out for a career in academia, else I’ll go into publishing or journalism, I suppose.

(And there she goes again sounding so sure of herself.)

I wish I were as certain of my capabilities and my future as I come across, but I’m not, which is exactly why I have to repeatedly vocalise my ambitions to myself, in order to keep my head in check. And yes, I’m currently watching Gilmore Girls now to get myself back into the academic grind. May I be blessed with the tenacity of Paris Geller and the relentless curiosity of Rory Gilmore, (though I’m more of a Lorelai in person.)

I’ve still got my packing to settle, and I need to get new school supplies. Thankfully I’ve already got my modules planned for the coming semester planned, which cuts some unnecessary worrying from my system lest I collapse from anxiety before college’s even started.

T-minus-four days till I become an official college kid, it’s happening!

Nineteen.

Well done, I’ve woken up everyday for the past nineteen years, I suppose that’s no mean feat indeed.
It’s strange having your nineteenth birthday, since it’s sandwiched right between your eighteenth and twenty-first birthday – two celebratory milestones as (roughly) defined by the judicial system – and it just doesn’t seem to carry as much weight as your twentieth birthday, a decadal achievement of sorts.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t feel all too hyped about my nineteenth – I haven’t had anything planned. I spent most of the day as I would every other Monday. I chose to remain alone at home over my birthday weekend (albeit to hang out with my best friends) instead of travelling overseas to meet my extended family, who would, as expected, throw me a massive celebration. Because that’s what they’ve done for everyone else in the family whenever their birthdays coincide with a family gathering.

I might’ve turned into sort of a birthday grouch this year, really.

Or at least, I’m not doing as much as I used to.

It doesn’t feel like there’s too much to celebrate this year, aside from me surviving the scathing experience of a high school education which I barely scraped through. Still, my family decided to indulge me a little, with the only way they know how to – with food.

My mom took us out to our favourite Japanese place for lunch today.

We wanted to head down to Gordon Ramsay’s new restaurant but we were too famished to bother travelling that far, and we were running a rather tight schedule with my brother’s tuition scheduled in the late afternoon. I suppose I’ll just try out the infamous chef’s fish and chips another time then.

And we got me a darling little ice-cream cake from Anderson’s since our fridge’s too cramped to chuck a cake that’s any bigger in it. Guess I never knew there were downsides to having a fully loaded fridge until earlier today.

We’re heading out for supper later – my family’s much too full for any dinner – and I’m only watching Scott Pilgrim vs The World to keep myself awake in the meantime. I’m currently on a personal mission to finish all of Edgar Wright’s films and hence the Scott Pilgrim (though I’ve skimmed through the movie a couple times before.) I really ought to get back to the movie so I’ll be able to finish it before we head out again, lest I spend the entirety of supper getting all antsy about not knowing the ending.

It’s as if the stars have aligned and all is right in the world.

I must admit, yesterday was a pretty bad day. I’m not sure why though, since nothing much went on about the house – I was simply feeling awfully jumpy and lethargic all day.

But today’s not bad.
No, today’s great.
In fact, it’s possibly the first good day I’ve had in a while.

I woke up to an email informing of my acceptance to my university’s french programme that’ll eventually lead up to an exchange programme in my Junior year. It’s not too big a deal since practically every other kid at college goes on a foreign exchange, but I’m especially thrilled about this since I’ll (likely) be headed back to Paris.
My best friend and I have been meaning to return to Paris from the moment we landed, in Singapore, back from our immersion trip two years ago. Now, I suppose our plan might actually work out after all.

I simply hope everything will work out over the next two years, and I’ll get to attend classes at the Sorbonne. Oh yes, need I mention that the Sorbonne’s main library looks like this?

Of course, that is not to mention that the central campus is situated right in the middle of the Latin Quarter where Shakespeare and Company’s located. In short, Sorbonne’s a dream come true. If only I survived through four years of French classes in high school, I might’ve applied to the Sorbonne last year. But now that I’ve got this fantastic, new opportunity to study there, albeit only for a year, I’d better not mess this up.

In addition to this news that kicked off my day, a friend informed me of Sylvie Guillem’s performance in Singapore, as part of her final tour before her retirement. And guess what? I’d managed to convince my mom to get me the best seats available as my birthday present. It appears I’m going to see Sylvie Guillem dance in person.

If you’re unfamiliar with Guillem or ballet in general, it can be said that she’s easily the queen of ballet. First of all, she’s been dancing professionally for the past thirty-five years – she joined the Paris Opera Ballet’s corps de ballet at age 16, and became their youngest ever étoile (or principal dancer) at 19. I’M NINETEEN AND I HAVEN’T ACCOMPLISHED ANYTHING MAJOR IN MY LIFE! She’s just turned fifty this year and she still dances much better than us mere mortals do, though she’s retiring at the end of the year, so the tour she’s now on is, in essence, her swan song. (Pun intended.)

I still can’t completely get my head around the fact that I’m going to watch her perform in person, after having watched fuzzy videos of her performances and practices almost obsessively for so long. When she announced her retirement I thought I’d never have a chance to watch her dance again but it is happening!
I’m gushing now, aren’t I?

Perhaps I should just stop here and leave you guys with this video of one of my favourite performances from Guillem – the final pas de deux of Manon, one of the most emotionally rousing routines ever choreographed

See, I told you she’s brilliant.

It’s horribly humid and my head’s reeling

I’m not sure if my head’s reeling from the heat or the caffeine but whatever it is, I’m on the verge of a panic attack so I shall attempt to write and ramble it out. On a side note, someone needs to remind me, before I gulp down my coffee every morning, what too much caffeine does to me. Because having to go through this every once a week or so is not helping my productivity at all. Maybe I should start getting decaf coffee.

Just received my acceptance from Tembusu College yesterday morning, which I promptly accepted before discussing anything through with my parents. God, Rachel, why’d you have to be so irresponsible? Still, my parents have already promised to pay for my college accommodation should I choose to move out, so informing them isn’t very much of an issue. It’s just that after going through several college packing lists on various sites, I don’t know if I’m ready to move out and live alone. Of course, given that I’ll be studying locally, I can always head home on the weekends – or anytime I wish, really. I don’t know what I should be packing for university, or more specifically, how much I should be packing for university. I’ll have to bring my clothes, and I suppose I’ll bring some of my books and wall art, but I don’t know how much to take along with me such that my room at home still looks like…well, me. I don’t wish for it to look completely uninhabited lest my parents forget I exist (silly, I know) but I do need to take some stuff with me so my dorm doesn’t remain like a hospital ward throughout the term.
But what if I’m home for the weekend and I realise I want to read a book I’ve left in my dorm? Or what if I forget to bring my laptop charger home with me? Will I even head back as often as I anticipate?!

Perhaps I’m worrying too much.

Maybe I should take joy in the fact that my college’s got a marvellous little reading room curated by its fellows, and in the reading room’s a dear little collection of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. And now I worry I’ll be spending too much time reading those instead of studying. Also, since I’ll be moving in a month before my best friend leaves for Glasgow, I promised her yesterday night that I’ll try to sneak her in so we can hang out (and she can read said Sandman comics – the lengths poor starving students will go to to read Gaiman’s comics without having to pay for them.) I hope my suitemates don’t mind.

“Suitemates” sounds so strange but also utterly exciting. I’m going to be living with a bunch of girls my age! I don’t know how that’ll work out, but I sure hope it’ll be like Rory and Paris’s experience at Yale. God, is it bad that I look up to two of the most aggressively ambitious female characters ever on TV?

Actually, I think I might have written an application essay (to my college) that’s just about as angrily assertive as Paris Gellar.

During a conversation I had with an English professor several months ago, I was cautioned of the dangers of complacency, warned that the course I was about to commit myself to wasn’t going to be easy, and eventually told that I shouldn’t simply strive to graduate with an upper-first class honours given my potential to achieve more. I was glad for the advice, for I had absolutely no intention of letting the next four years of my life slide and be defined by a mere degree classification, diminished to a sheet of paper I will receive upon graduation.

Boy I do sound like a blithering, pompous idiot. I’m not sure what I was thinking while writing this. I’m not sure what I’m thinking posting this up either, but I’ll probably take this down by tomorrow – if I remember that this exists on the internet at all. (Why do I feel like I’ll look upon this in months or years and regret this?)

The reality of university’s starting to settle in, and I’m glad for it since I was simply drifting about my boundless freedom for the past month or two. I like that there’s some sort of purpose and routine in my life again.


Things to do in the coming month before university starts:

  • Finish reading all the books I’ve accumulated over the past year.
  • Pack! And buy whatever’s necessary for my dorm. (Aside from clothes, since I might have bought an entirely new wardrobe from Zara last week.)
  • Buy stationery. The pens you haven’t touched for the past few months probably don’t work now.
  • Enjoy my 19th birthday with my best friend. Watch Ant-Man. Don’t get drunk.
  • Relearn essay-writing skills. Load my brain up with information pertaining to school, not pop culture, though this may be a challenge since SDCC’s in two days.

Far From the Madding Crowd [Review]

There’s an odd charm about the British Victorian era that I’ve always been intrigued by. Perhaps it is the massive renovation of its society and values, the wondrous modesty of the archetypal British countryside (a motif heavily present throughout its culture), or simply modern media’s romanticisation of a time plagued by rampant social injustices, that I am so taken by this specific period in time.

Or perhaps it’s its literature.

Victorian literature, devoid of the confusions brought about by a near obsolete language as well as the abstractions of contemporary literature, is first and foremost easy to read. Its concerns – from the smallest details of the characters’ private lives to the macroscopic societal issues – often mirror those of our daily lives, and its style is commonly precise and absolute – that is, without the bells and whistles characteristic of literature that had come before it. Amongst the vast range of stories explored within the Victorian era’s short century or so, my favourites are definitely those that take place within the domestic realm – for stories about the war seem too grim, and those of the industry, too bleak. But the unassuming stories of the everyday countryfolks’ lives, with its petty dealings of marriage, money, and simply getting by are perfectly ideal with their optimism and mild moral chiding.

Thomas Hardy’s serialised novel, “Far From The Madding Crowd” belongs to the latter category of stories. It follows the life of Bathsheba, a headstrong, independent (and almost irresistibly attractive) young woman as she flits from proposal to proposal while managing a farm she has, as if with a Dickensian twist, inherited from her uncle. Evidently, the plot’s not that simple as hurdles are episodically thrown at our female protagonist, though they are suitably resolved at every turn, eventually concluding in a fine, fairytale ending in which Bathsheba ends up marrying her very first sweetheart, Gabriel Oak.

It’s a dear novel that I’ve read in preparation for my A Level literature syllabus (though it was later swapped by our literature tutor for Eliot’s “Silas Marner“, which I also loved,) and I was more than thrilled about the news of it being adapted into a full-length film starring one of my favourite actresses, Carey Mulligan. Granted my excitement and consequently high expectations of the production, I must admit that I left the cinema feeling marginally disappointed at what became of this beloved story.

It isn’t that the movie was bad, or that the adaptation strayed too far from the source – it’s just that I felt the medium of a two hour film to be slightly inappropriate for a story of such sorts – or of any serialised novel, actually. I mean, imagine all eighty-six chapters of Eliot’s “Middlemarch” being compacted into a two (or even three) hour long film! Because of the constraints placed by the medium by which Hardy’s novel was to be adapted, bits of the original plot had to be shaved off to make room for the more iconic scenes, and it seemed as if the characterisation of Bathsheba and her suitors was compromised for that. For example, there was an incidence of Boldwood bribing Frank Troy to give up Bathsheba missing from act two of the film, which could have given Boldwood a slightly more sinister edge to his, otherwise, merely angsty and tortured portrayal, such as to foreshadow his actions at the end of the story. And then there’s also the omission of the burial of Troy – in the same grave as his lover their child – at the end of the film that seems (to me) pretty crucial to tie up the knots in Bathsheba’s characterisation, redeeming her for her earlier harsh, albeit justifiable, treatment of Frank.

Another issue arising from the unsuitability of the choice medium to its source material was that the film appeared rather “choppy”, for the lack of a better word, to its viewers. While writers are granted the liberty to skip from moment to moment in their writing (even despite the lack of coherence between the two conjoined sub-plots written after each other) due to the privilege of having chapters and other separators to clarify the progression of the storyline, filmmakers cannot afford such a luxury. (Unless, of course, the filmmaker chooses to use title cards as freely as Wes Anderson does.) What resulted was a lost sense of chronological progression (though one can technically figure out the passing of the years from the mentions of crop harvests) and more unfortunately, a rather disjointed narrative. Perhaps if the novel was adapted for a TV serial, such issues would be resolved, but alas, the BBC opted for a film adaptation instead.

Still, there were merits to the abbreviation of the original novel. Bits of dialogue meant to signify the development of relationships between characters, specifically with Bathsheba and Gabriel Oak, were subtly and exquisitely condensed into these beautiful moments of repressed passion. Pages of descriptions and dialogues were replaced by seconds of locked eye-contact, played out so marvellously by the brilliant cast, and hence heightening the romance of the film beyond what written language can accomplish.

Considering the limitations placed upon the production by the lack of time to explore the detailed nuances of the novel, I would say that Vingerberg and David Nicholls did a pretty solid job of bringing the pages to screen. Bathsheba remains the likeable, all “too independent”, feminist character I know and love, perhaps made even more likeable with Carey Mulligan’s youthful prettiness and her modern, intelligent wit. I liked that they kept her iconic lines, including one that has stuck with me for years, “It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.” It’s rather incredible how Thomas Hardy wrote a more full-fledged, well-defined, “strong female character” in a patriarchal era where (white) women were just given the right to vote than many writers now. Maybe that’s why I so enjoy watching a period film based on older works from time to time in between all the contemporary independent films and the Hollywood blockbusters. Maybe we should start writing like back in those days again.

And I digress.

Well, what else can I say about the film?

Well, it looks unbelievably stunning, and the soundtrack’s absolutely divine – almost, just almost, on the level of Joe Wright’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I do believe the costuming department’s a frontrunner for next year’s academy awards, and my, the casting is perfect. Matthias Schoenaerts was every bit as handsome and sincere as Gabriel Oak should be, while Michael Sheen and Juno Temple basically carried their characters through whatever little characterisation they had, fleshing them out through their acting. On a side note, why is Juno Temple constantly cast as the unfortunate girl taken by the sly temptations of a smooth-talker, to only face ruin eventually? Or at least, she was that in Atonement.

I suppose all I can say now’s that Vingerberg’s adaptation of “Far From The Madding Crowds” is something I’d love to like, despite its flaws. I’m glad the film’s getting generally positive reviews (it’s got a rating of 85% on rotten tomatoes) which means that my judgement of the film may be wrong. Watch it if you’re into period films, watch it if you’re looking for a well-written strong female character in the dire straits that’s our current box office, watch it if you will. Maybe you’ll like it better than I did.

“Dance Like Misty Copeland” sketch

Scan-small

Woke up to the most wonderful news about Misty Copeland’s long-overdue promotion, making her the first ever black principal dancer at the ABT, and immediately got to work on this. Might have screwed up the face a little because it’s really difficult to pencil in the details when it’s so small (which is why I usually opt to only draw head portraits) but I’m really pleased with the rest of it, especially her fingers – hands are notoriously hard to draw.

The sketch’s up on Redbubble so bunheads can get totes and prints of it! I may start making fan art of other ballerinas as well and putting them up for sale, if anyone’s interested – I truly enjoy drawing ballerinas anyway, I love how dynamic their movements are.