Create a Core Memory

Creating a Core Memory –

There is nothing like the feeling of creating a core memory.

The realization that the present moment will be a memory you can look back on for years – that you are experiencing a moment that will be ingrained in who you are as a person.

Maybe I am just a deeply nostalgic romantic – I romanticize the beauty in moments. Driving on the highway. Sitting on a bench listening to Frank Ocean. Sharing goodbye hugs with my friends makes me crave the reunion hug.

I have so many of these core memories – these abstract moments, from grand sunset views at the New York City skyline to little moments like watching a movie my best friend showed me.

But I also cherish the bad. The lonely nights, the tears, from the deep screaming pain to unearthly pain that leaves me in silence. These are also core memories that have created who I am now today.

It is in the moments of dread that I can hold on to the beauty of moments created with people that I love. These core, abstract memories I create with people I love are priceless. I try to bottle them up so I can remember them forever – in the form of photos and videos – to cherish these moments of aliveness, of laughter, of happiness, of sublime, of beauty, of creation, of life.

What I want love to look like

What I want love to look like

Ours would be the type of relationship where we are strong independent – and even stronger together

We could be objective proof the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We make each other better.

Her face is pretty

But it is her soul that I find absolutely gorgeous

A soul that reminds me what true beauty and love would look and feel like

She can overthink my overthinking

Because she always has better ideas

She has a way of perceiving the nuances of the world that I could never

She would remind me of the beauty of the world but also the beauty in myself

She is fun, weird, has a loud laugh and bright smile

She cries a lot.

But so do I. We will trade shoulders.

She will make me question my belief in the existence of angels

She invigorates my self love – re-injecting my life with even more purpose and meaning that I previously that I had much of already

She reminds me that I can live authentically – that she loves all versions of me. I will remind her that the best version of me is one where we are together

My emotions are valid

My emotions are valid

There used to be days when I feel as if nothing is going to be okay.

I was in suspension – uncertain of the life I’ve lived and the future seems blurry and fading. I didn’t see what would happen past 20 years old.

In these moments I have tried to rationalize my emotions – gripping at some existential answer – some proof to validate my emotions. I hold on dearly for some distractions and want someone to tell me that I am okay and that my emotions are valid.

Finally, I learned to turn to myself – to accept that my emotions – the grief, the happiness – is all part of who I am. That these volatile emotions of immense sadness and spontaneous joy are acceptable given what I have gone through. And here I am, feeling 22 like that Taylor Swift song. The blurry future is still blurry, but it is no longer fading – it is an uncertain mess of opportunity, slowly but surely being pieced together again by my own hands.

I am learning to forgive myself for not being perfect. I am learning to accept that being perfect is not what I am striving for anymore, but instead, that to be happy and loving was far more important – to be vulnerable with friends and loved ones, to wear my insecurities and imperfects on my sleeve, and skin proudly, to show the world that I will ferociously love life again.

How am I?

How am I?

If you asked me that this month on the 5th, 7th, 14th, 18th, 20th, or 21st, I might say “okay” or “bad.” Those are the days I cried. The first time I cried this month was when I found out my roommate from Singapore passed away. Every subsequent time I cried this month is from that memory and grief.

But overall, if you asked me “how am I” in my life, I am trending towards ferocious happiness. I am learning to love life again. If not of my own life, then for the life of others – so that I never forget to remind people I love that the matter.

I admit there are lapses of loneliness, grief, sadness, disappointment – like all things in life should be. I try to alleviate my suffering but I have been unable to find a cure for it entirely.

It is a cruel reality for a person who is agnostic when given no answer to this existential question of suffering. But in the face of suffering, I have found not religion, but compassion, love, friendship, happiness, and hope.

6 things I love about myself

1 – that I am a romantic. And even though my life doesn’t always play out like the way they do in movies, I am happy I am a romantic because it makes me hopeful. That I am willing to suspend all that exists in reality – because reality is boring sometimes – and envision a more beautiful, romantic, sublime, daring life.

2 – that I am comfortable with crying – and I cry a lot because I feel so much. I am growing with my emotions. I strive in showing vulnerability and putting myself outside my comfort zone. And although I am not completely comfortable in my own skin, I am still learning.

3 – that I can do magic. Magic is really cool.

4 – that I love deeply. I care strongly about my friends and relationships. That I cry for their happiness and for their pain. That I miss them even when they’re close and more when they’re gone.

5 – that I can dance. Not well. But the fact that I can move my body freely – and there was a point where I couldn’t – makes me realize that I am alive.

6 – that I am so deeply imperfect – my skin, my past, my baggage – but I still love myself and I continually learn to love myself.

What do I gain from living?

The Ancient philosophy schools of thought, the Stoics and Epicureans, believed that death was not something one should bare any anxiety towards.

Epicurus argued that death does no harm, because it is not something one experiences – we simply cease to exist. Much like a Pegasus (a winged-horsed) actually does not have wings, because a Pegasus does not exist.

We do not lose anything from death – we cease to exist – we are no longer here to “lose” anything.

If we lose nothing from death, then a supplementary logical question is: what do we gain from living – nothing as well?

I am skeptical to affirm these two extremes – that life is either “everything” or “nothing.” But the Ancient philosophers were right to contemplate death, because I believe this mediated contemplation can lead to sublime conclusions on what we gain from living – since we as a species have continued to exist, would it be a bold claim to say that we enjoy life?

Philosophy has made me contemplate this question thoroughly. I do not have an answer, but I do believe I am building some type of map to navigate the complexities of life.

I can answer the question with abstract concepts: love, friendship, compassion, joy, laughter, self-actualization.

By living, I can enjoy more empirical sensations as well: food, travel, good TV shows/movies, entertainment, cute dog and cat videos, among other physical pleasures.

Aristotle did philosophy over 2000 years ago, but I believe he was correct all along that the teleology of life should be happiness.

This is the core, intrinsic, final end value that I must gain from living – is it not happiness?

Falling (In Love?)

Falling in Love, what a bizarre phrase

I romanticize the idea of romantic love. I have never felt it before, but I’ve watched The Notebook a handful of times already, which is essentially the equivalent of saying I have a LinkedIn certificate on love.

Falling in Love. I romanticize the “love” part, but in reality, the “falling” part has taken up much of my attention.

When I find something I enjoy – a passion project, an idea, a thought I want to ponder and explore – I am in suspension. Falling. I experience a dreadful uncertainty and I suspend in the air, yet so full of potential and freedom. Uncertain of where I will land. A certain destination that I hope will be a better place and make me a better person. I don’t finish every project I fall in love with – but I am often very good at jumping out of the plane – sometimes unsure if I remembered to pack a single parachute when you’re supposed to bring two. This year I’ve jumped out of a few planes. Notably, one plane where I hope to fall into an extremely fit and healthy body.

I am not in love. I am falling. I am constantly falling – towards a fabricated fantasy that I’ve created based on books, poems, movies, and Bruno Major songs that inspire me to continue falling.

What I’ve realized through the years is that the most important destination – the destination I am falling towards and one that I hope I land on – is self-love. As cliché as it sounds, you have to love yourself 100%, more than 100%, before you find more elsewhere.

And so I may be falling. I hope the destination I land on is kind and warm like I always dreamed of. But, meanwhile, as I suspend in the air, I will enjoy the view, and continue working on myself: mind, body, and soul. And I will work on getting to a point in my life where I always have two parachutes. And if I ever forget, thankfully, I have the power of philosophical fabrication, with a little magic, to create parachutes on the go.

Learning how to cry and time travel.

I was walking on the familiar uneven pavement streets which I called home for the past three months, with an oat milk latte in one hand and a banana loaf in the other, with Clare de Lune on my Airpods playing on repeat, as I made my way to my final 1-on-1 boxing session at Cambridge. I noticed I was crying…

It’s happening again. This is my fourth time studying abroad. I cried when I left Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. And now Cambridge.

The sudden realization that this might very well be my last time getting the latte + loaf combo at my go-to cafe, Espresso Lane, individually run by this very kind gentleman who taught me bits of British culture during my stay. He gave me my final order today for free, for being a good customer. He deserves all the happiness in the world.

In a weird and “totally not” psychopathic way, I enjoy crying. I often do it alone because of a deep-rooted childhood experience when I was told boys shouldn’t cry. Anyways, the experience makes me realize that I am alive, making me aware of my body and the bizarre concept of emotions, and tears are the product. Weird.

My tears are a result of nostalgia and sorrow for having to say goodbye, mixed with the happiness that I was able to go through these experiences.

At my boxing session, my coach made sure to give me a great final workout. I ended up doing 16 boxing rounds, and 200 burpees in total in between the rounds. He also made sure to get a good final head and body jab to remind me of this great quote:

“Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face.” I might have a video of me getting hit – I will look to post that one day.

If you’re reading this, I want to thank you. I have always felt a weird ambivalence toward advertising my blog because frankly, this blog started as a personal diary of sorts and on most occasions can contain some of the most vulnerable parts of my life. That ambivalence is immediately expelled when I realize that the type of people who make the effort to read my mundane writing is also the type of people I care about and appreciate being in my circle.

I want to share with you a life philosophy I’ve been trying to apply to my life as I combat the dramatic emotions I have about saying goodbye to the past. Read on further and I will teach you how to time travel.

Well, not actual time travel. But let’s say you could time travel. And you are forced to use it every day. At the end of every day, you are forced to re-live that same day largely the same way. You do the same things, with a small nuance: the second time you re-live that day, you pause and notice the tiny, infinite beauties of life. The pavement you are walking on was made by someone potentially hundreds of years ago. Their work has impacted so many. Notice the beautiful architecture, and the little homes, and the people (overview effect). The clouds shifting. The hum of life. Feel your breath. Feel your heart. Talk to yourself. Tell yourself how powerful you are. With extra dramatic effect, listen to Claire de Lune. It is my favorite classical piece, by far, and I’ve never had the same experience as I do with this song. It makes me feel so much emotion, both anguish, and joy.

Unfortunately, we can’t do real-time travel. But I want you to just try this technique because I have felt it is so liberating. Pretend that the days that so quickly pass by us as it has in the recent years, pretend that you specifically time-traveled back to this day to re-live. Allow yourself to feel your emotions pour through. Your heartbeat. This is what it feels like to be alive, and to be in the moment.

I’m not sure if this off-brand time travel technique will cure my nostalgic depression, but I think it will help me live in the moment more and not be too sad about the past. Because, well, I specifically traveled back in time to re-live today. And I am so happy that I am here.

Thank you for coming to my Ted-Talk and for indulging my dramatic overthinking. There are over 7 billion people in this world, and it always feels good to be heard.

Setting Myself up for Failure, The Overview Effect, and Creating Memories

When you are on a fast-moving train and you pass another train at a station, there is no way for the human mind to cognize whether the other train is moving in the opposite direction or is sitting still.

Everything is a blur passing by.

It is often a brief moment in time where you are uncertain of your own place in the universe — and uncertain of what the external world is like. For a brief moment, you lose your spatial awareness.
A passing moment

Flying on an airplane is a surreal experience, being suspended up in the air, looking down at people, cars, houses on the ground, all so minuscule in comparison. It puts into perspective both how inconsequential we are to the grand scheme of the universe, but also a hauntingly realization that each spec, each dot, is an individual life — a person who is the unique sum of a permutation of experiences. I am one of those dots on the Earth. Do you ever look up when an airplane is flying across, and wonder how many people are looking back down at you?

The Overview Effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by astronauts when viewing the Earth from outer space. It is generally explained as the experience of seeing from a personal perspective the fragile reality of our world, hanging in the black void of space. I wonder how many people on Earth are looking back up towards those astronauts. I have to imagine that those astronauts viewing the world from outer space, who feel the overview effect, must come to some philosophical epiphany about their own life as well. I imagine that epiphany to be motivating, inspiring, and overwhelming.

To a lesser degree, I believe the overview effect can be applied to many aspects of one’s life – these passing moments, a blur in memory.

I am a gross overthinker and will dramatize the smallest things. My internal monologue won’t shut up. I replay 5, 10, 15 different scenarios before every event. Somehow I miss all of those scenarios despite having theoretically infinite guesses.

I’ve just submitted my econometrics exam and my philosophy dissertation which I spent 3 months working on. 8000 words, 20 pages. Sent. Am I satisfied with it? Likely not. But even if not, I need to learn to be. But even this soon will be a passing moment. I will still forever cherish my time here at Cambridge.

I have a tendency to set myself up for failure. Perhaps it is because I am afraid of what success might look like. Perhaps I am afraid of failure itself, so I never truly “shoot my shot.” I don’t want to regret not having done something in my life. I deeply cherish memories and relationships. I am so constantly depressed by my nostalgia for the past. Perhaps this just means I need to start looking forward more, rather than backward.

What a weird thing memories are. What a fascinating concept the overview effect has on understanding one’s own reality.

The paradox of choice – the illusion of perfection

Ever since I could remember I’ve always liked only one flavour of Lay’s potato chips: the original. The classic yellow bag which contained at a minimum of 50% air was my go-to bag of chips. I didn’t care for all the new flavours the brand was producing.
The other day I went to the grocery store and realized they didn’t sell Lays in the UK. Blasphemy. I looked on the shelf and was completely overwhelmed by the choices.

I invested in a stock in 2020 where I ended up 20x my return in a year, only to then feel bad for not somehow magically catching on to the craze of Gamestop. I constantly have to remind myself that my investment was based on research and rational decision making, whereas Gamestop was an incredibly unique, and otherwise, completely random spike in value that made a few people very wealthy.

My 5th-grade teacher always told me “never let good enough be good enough.” I was actually very thankful for him as a teacher because he always pushed me to be a better student – I was lackadaisical, and I think both of us knew that I could put in more effort.

When I used to blog every day, I did it on the deep-rooted acceptance that many of my submissions would be poorly written posts.
I am afraid of submitting “send” on my dissertation. 20 pages, 8000 words, 3 months of work. I nevertheless have to submit it, even though it can always get better.

The illusion of perfection, the paradox of choice, paralysis of analysis—whatever you want to call it—the psychological condition where you incessantly ask yourself: is this good enough?
At times I’ve begun hitting the wall. Better is never enough. Enough is not enough. There is always something else. This is not healthy.

On social media, there is an adage where people like to say “There will always be an Asian kid better than you.” I grew up both fearing that person and expecting to be that person. I am at a balance of feeling young with potential but underaccomplished; that I have a lot of time yet I am behind. I look back at old videos, old memories, old blog posts and reminisce about a life that wasn’t so serious and stressful.

At these times I feel nostalgic that my life is going by so quickly. I can only accept that there is more happiness along the journey I am going on – and accepting that I made the right choice – and that Lays will continue selling their original classic flavour.