Words by: Felice Lok Art by: L. Ching
I love writing, but I didn’t always realise I did. It must have begun when my uncle would return from Sydney every Christmas and pull beautifully wrapped storybooks out of his denim satchel for me like Mary Poppins. I soon fell in love with the touch of textured paper under my fingers as I diligently sounded out the ‘big words’. When I was 12, my mum sent me to an English tutor who left me in tears after every lesson because my stories were simply not interesting enough. In hindsight, I have both of them to thank because my stories were, in fact, not interesting at all. This tutor had made me realise it wasn’t that I lacked great ideas, but that writing was a skill I had to patiently practise in order to captivatingly convey what I wanted to say. When I reached uni, I began watching Gilmore Girls and started living vicariously through the protagonist, Rory Gilmore, who inspired me to study journalism. All these people (real and fictional) made me realise the value of words. Through words, I get to read the most interesting stories, pen thoughts to paper when I am anxious, and shamelessly share carefully crafted puns with my friends. For me, words are a vehicle for self-expression which have become a significant part of who I am.
I didn’t always enjoy being in my own company. In fact, I feared being alone. Lunch times back in my first year of uni involved either frantically trying to find anyone to eat with or whingy complaints to my friends that I was eating alone yet again. Being by myself did not sit well with me. But one day, I bumped into two old friends who redefined, for me, what it meant to be alone. They would spontaneously call me so we could chat till 2:30am about our identity crises, leave me with nine consecutive voice messages about overpriced long blacks and crumplets, or insist that I leave my room and spend my Friday night with them. They opened their arms and showered me with so much affection that my feelings of insecurity slowly dissipated. I remember walking alone in the park one afternoon and realising how blissful solitude was. Now, I appreciate my own company with peace rather than as an object of ridicule — not because I’m lonely, but because I know they’ll always be there.
We often feel that we exist in each other’s worlds as mere supporting characters without realising that we are contributing significantly to the chapters of someone else’s story. The books that we leave for our friends at their doorsteps, the music we share in silent car rides, and the stories we tell each other are all but insignificant in a world where we leave trails of footprints. We are the reason why our best friends get excited at the sound of a song, why our siblings cook eggs the way they do, or why someone has so many exciting stories to tell at the dinner table. Whether we are aware or not, we are constantly adding value to each other’s lives.
Every year, I take the time to sit and write long birthday letters to my friends. I picked up this habit because my mum always asked for a heartfelt card whenever we, as kids, asked for her birthday wish list. When winter approaches, I find myself wrapped in a thick scarf because my dad always said that keeping your neck covered is best for staying warm. Whenever I feel myself about to burn out, I pause everything immediately, because my brother taught me that often taking one step back is your best one forward.
Through these habits, I see the value in sitting down and writing, in my neatest handwriting, about how appreciative I am that someone exists. I see that winter isn’t as terrible as everyone makes it out to be because a trusty scarf goes a long way. And I see how taking care of myself allows me to become a better daughter, sister and friend. The habits I have picked up over the past 21 years, my likes, dislikes and who I have become all stem from the people around me — so much so that, oftentimes, I feel like I am an extension of all the people I love.