Disorganised

I’m not an organised person. 

I often find it hard to think in linear time. I could make two appointments at the same time on the same date and think that it’s two different occasions.

My files — both physical and digital — are “organised” in a system that only I know how to navigate and use. 

Actually, if I’m being honest, it’s not much of a system. I just upload files into arbitrary folders, with not very descriptive names and rely almost totally on the search function.

Now that I’ve begun work on my Masters thesis, with the aim to eventually (maybe?) pursue a PhD, I am told that having everything organised is half the battle. This means that I’m half a battle behind.

Reading, I can do. Writing, no issue. Keeping things organised — the bane of my existence. 

The good thing is that there are resources for this. 

People have written things about this. This article on organising papers details a system of filing and note-taking that makes sense, while being simple enough to maintain. 

I also learned about the Rhetorical Précis Format, which seems especially useful. 

I love the fact that people wrote about how they’ve done things, and that what they’ve written are now becoming a guide for me. Perhaps this is why #LearningInPublic matters. 

Too much

Writing — for myself — has been one of the hardest things to do in the last six months. Sometimes I find myself sitting in front of the empty screen, wanting, but not being able to channel my thoughts into words.

Because they’re too much.

How do I even begin to talk about grief when it still feels too wordless, too free-formed to be pinned down and controlled?

How do I write about my inability to sleep, or my desire to drink, or my difficulties staying focused?

How do I untangle the knot of emotions left behind and string them up into a proper train of thought?

Sometimes I wonder, am I still a writer if I’ve only been writing for money? For work, for clients?

Am I still a writer if my personal projects have been on hold?

Am I still a writer if the process feels difficult? If putting 200 words down on a page feels like squeezing water from a rock.

So I write things people ask me to. I write about artificial intelligence, ageing societies and journalism in Malaysia. I write when I have to, when it pays the bills. I write in other people’s voices.

You’re still a writer if you keep writing, I tell myself. So I keep writing.

And perhaps one day, when my too-muchness becomes easier to bear, I’ll write for myself again.

Education

In an article about thriving in a complex world, Thomas Oppong writes that  we should “embrace things that require serious effort but will help you grow”.

“The effort alone can make you better — no matter the outcome. Even if you fail, you win because you are demanding more of yourself.” he wrote.

When I decided to further my education this year (during the COVID-19 movement control order), I considered pursuing an MBA. And then I thought about researching the future of journalism.

They both felt difficult. But would they truly stretch me, I wondered.

Eventually, I began work on and later submitted a research proposal on “pornography” in Malaysia. The work was brutal — mainly because I was exploring concepts that were completely new to me.

I read about “the body” (not a physical thing, apparently), about how anti-sex discussions are really discussions about sex (first foray into Foucault’s writings), and how modernity shapes cultural narratives.

Half the time I didn’t understand what I was reading, and even when I did, I found that I lacked the vocabulary to write down my understanding of it.

When I was finally done and hit Send on my Master’s application, I felt like a different person.

And isn’t that the point of education?  

Debauchery

At an event that I spoke at this year — I was sharing my experience as a freelancer during COVID-19 — someone “porn-bombed” the Google Meet where the event was being held.

That person did it at least three times, using different accounts, jumping into the call each time someone kicked him out.

He (I assume, based on voice) hijacked the screen share and had his computer open to Pornhub’s home page. Amidst the sea of shocked voices, he said one thing, “Why are you guys reacting this way? This is normal.”

And yes, sex is normal. Sex is part of our biology. Like eating and moving and growing, sex is a part of what makes us alive. But somehow, we see sex in a different light.

It’s something private, sometimes illicit, generally improper to talk about. Why?

Why is it okay to talk about it in some settings, but not others? Why is some sex “bad”, or “wrong”, or “over the top”?

What is it about sex that’s so incendiary? I mean, great sex is usually incendiary in a good way 😼… but what about the topic makes it so controversial?

It’s something I have on my mind a lot, so when I started my first podcast in 2016, I chose this subject that I have endless fascination for.

Almost five years later, I find myself exploring the topic of sex again. As a second season for the podcast, yes, but also, as a potential thesis topic.

Does this make me a pervert? Totally debauched?

Maybe, maybe not. But more importantly, does it matter? And so what?

Anxious

Yesterday, I experienced an overwhelming bout of anxiety (due to a combination of hormones, working with someone I think is genius and concerns over me not being able to produce tangible deliverables).

Being the sort of person who needs to look for solutions, I reached out to a friend who’s currently studying psychoanalysis to ask how anxiety is addressed.

His reply?

“Sustain” it over scattered moments. Gradual brushes and encounters with it so it feels familiar enough, though not tamed, over time.

It was the first time I’d heard anxiety referred to in such “friendly” terms.

In my dealings with other specialists or doctors of the mind, anxiety was always an illness to be medicated or a monster to be figured out so that it could be vanquished.

But now here was someone, saying that anxiety was something to be encountered, to be made familiar, that it didn’t need to be tamed.

It made me wonder if my anxiety was just a part of me – like a mole or an extra bone (which I have btw) – that’s neither good nor bad. It’s just there.

Maybe it feels uncomfortable and maybe I don’t understand why it exists. Maybe sometimes it feels debilitating but maybe it’s also what keeps me growing. And perhaps I can learn to live with it.

“In short it’s not pacified,” my friend continues.

“Because anxiety means you’re closer to the truth you can’t confront.”