Why read // how reading has changed me

I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve changed as a person. I’ve always liked reading, but I think it’s only in university that I’ve read a lot more. Gained lots more information, from books (read lots more fiction, I’ve been reading more than a hundred books these last 2 years? Yes, I skim sometimes and some books are really easy to read/short), readings in school and from videos as well (documentaries, short educational clips. I don’t find those Kdramas/movies attractive anymore. Haha, I think I’ve grown rather old in that sense. Gosh, I’ll rather watch the news than see a movie…). University education has grown me greatly in knowledge, but not ‘holistically’ like in college.

Anyway. I was thinking about how important is to me. I recall listening to audiobooks – the bible, and feeling very touched as I listened to the epistles/letters from the apostles. I think about how they were written to people. And as a letter writer, I felt particularly moved: they were writing to people, to me! Christians displaced from where the apostles were, Christians whom they would never meet, Christians of the future, even! Words are so emotive, and they’re different from news/mere information. I think about the experiences of my friends: despite studying about climate change, how animals have been exploited etc., they are content with going back to their old way of life because it is too troublesome. Perhaps we should not tell people the current situation, but how it would be like in the future.

I remember the intensity of feeling I experienced, reading David Mitchell’s Bone Clocks. The last chapter/last few chapters, I can’t remember. Basically it described the future. It was a horrendous one, anarchy and climate change issues. It was terrible, disastrous, I didn’t cry but I felt like I could have.

I challenged my mother to think – she didn’t have the best childhood; poor, post WWII and stuff. What is something that she cannot ‘go back to’ from her childhood? She said the lack of sanitation; people didn’t have their own toilets. Toilets that did not flush and the pans had to be cleared by someone every other day.

Reading Mitchell’s work, I felt scared to live in a world where there is no ‘progress’, ‘improvement’. I can’t imagine a world which is worse than my current world, as a youth. I can’t imagine living in a world without constant electricity. But that’s a very possible and real problem, isn’t it? (This imagination, this fiction, has indeed influenced the changes in my life. A more, environmentally conscious one, albeit flawed and limited).

Read (fiction, too). There is emotion in the pages, it can change your life. It has changed mine.

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Self evaluation of intelligence

I’ve been questioning my identity/my intelligence. My mom called me an intellectual snob before, which I suppose does somewhat accurately describe me. I do respect intelligent people very easily, more than those who are rich (I think. But yes, different ways of being intelligent as well; as what Galileo said: I’ve never met a man so dense whom I’ve got nothing to learn from). I do agree that sometimes I can be impatient with people who are slower, so may (unconsciously) think that their value as a person is less.

But I wonder if I really think I’m smart. I don’t think so? I think I’m quite willing and reasonably quick to say that I’m stupid (not in a low self-esteem way, but an acknowledgement of my limitations). Yes, I can say/think intelligent things, but I don’t mind talking about my failures. I’ve failed many times in my life haha.

But somehow I think I give the impression that I’m smart/intellectual – I think it’s simply because talking about ideas interest me, more than ‘what did you eat for lunch’ and gossip about people/people’s lives (unless it’s the life of the person I’m talking to).

I hate it when people allude to my intelligence, it makes me uncomfortable. And I HATE IT when grades come out and they assume that I did well/ask me what I got/and then pronounce out loud/to everyone ‘HUH HOW COME YOU DID SO BADLY’. Thanks. Or look shocked/disappointed. It’s like I disappointed myself, and even worse, others? I don’t mind talking about my failures, but I don’t like talking about my current failures (hmm that’s normal for everyone right).

This is an incomplete thought, but I’m still pondering about how ‘intelligent’ I really am, and if indeed I’m so prideful, as my mom claims.

Social anxiety, paranoia, the surveillance state

 

Are you afraid of the all-seeing state? Think 1984; Big Brother is watching you, Dave Egger’s The Circle, Foucault’s panopticon. Think about how you can tracked by your tech devices, the internet stores everything that has ever been uploaded, the cameras on your phone, laptop, can be activated without you knowing.

I am not particularly afraid of the aforementioned situations. I’m not really afraid of CCTVs. But I think I do think I have social anxiety (manifestations include being unable to sleep/stress eat before I’m meant to be meeting friends. Cyclical thoughts about random worries before I meet them: will it be awkward, what if it’s boring, what if I am wasting time, where are we going to go, what will they think of me, etc.)

I despise seeing so many people I know around me (in school). I understand the desire many of my friends expressed when they were kids and I couldn’t comprehend: the desire to go somewhere else and start their life entirely afresh, to not know anyone around them. Previously I couldn’t understand what they meant.

But some thoughts/realisations:

  • I think I’m quite an observant person, I watch my surroundings. And so I feel that I know a lot of people around me since I’m always scanning the room and picking out faces; some are familiar strangers. Perhaps people don’t feel the same kind of anxiety as I do because they do not observe their surroundings/people around them as much as I do. So it’s not that I know/recognise more people than usual, it’s just that I watch out more.
  • I feel stifled when I notice familiar people because I impose the way I watch upon these other people. I assume that everyone is as observant as I am and I don’t like the way that I look at people, I won’t like other people watching me in the same way that I am watching others
  • I suppose I’ve quite a good memory of people from the past/familiar strangers. I recognise their faces and names (sometimes? Often enough) easily, and I’ve been part of large ‘organisations’ (schools, clubs etc). Hence it’s only normal that I will recognise so many people.

I’m not doing anything bad but I don’t like to be watched. Perhaps it’s because I have to acknowledge people when I’m in the same space as them. People you know also have a ‘presence’ (their breath, the space they take up, something that triggers some unnameable sense in me) in the room – I am unable to concentrate studying with other people I know. I will think about them. I wonder if they are watching me, what they are thinking. Weird stuff like that.

Contradictory Character

“A paradox to most observers, INTJs are able to live by glaring contradictions that nonetheless make perfect sense – at least from a purely rational perspective. For example, INTJs are simultaneously the most starry-eyed idealists and the bitterest of cynics, a seemingly impossible conflict.”


I feel like I am a bundle of contradictions, I don’t understand myself. I remember struggling to answer the question ‘who I am’ since I was younger; at 15?

I am definitely an introvert, but at the same time I am a ‘circumstantial’ extrovert – I can make myself talk if I have to, people may not call me shy; I’ve been put in leadership positions and it’s hard to be a leader and an introvert (I know, these little inconsistencies in character don’t make ‘me’. Just because I lie once doesn’t make me a ‘bad person’, to be labelled a liar; it is not my dominant identity. But still, I despise inconsistencies in people, and I hate that I have them too). I dislike math, science and technology, but at the same time I think I could do it if I really had to. It confounds me, but at the same time it’s so interesting/useful (I can’t understand trigonometry, logarithms? What is the relationship between the trigonometry graphs and the triangles?). Sometimes I’m nice and patient to those around me, and suddenly I am absolutely terrible and mean and impatient and say the most cutting things; I can be hot and suddenly cold and people have commented about this. I would like to think that I’m a consistent person, and that the times I lash out is due to all the pent up annoyance within me that I decide to release at that particular point in time, but I know that’s not really true. Why am I irked some times more than others? I like reading, writing, being alone etc, but I am unsure if I really enjoy these things. I find it very tough to say I like something. Usually what I like is what I hate the least/a mild preference, favouring, rather than an enthusiasm and joy. I don’t mind, but I don’t like.

(Contradiction is what I think makes human anger imperfect, as compared to ‘godly’ anger haha. Or at least one aspect of it. The standards/threshold of when we get angry differs, unlike the absolute standard of ‘godly’ anger. So He is angry when we sin, but we get angry at each other at varying levels of wrong done to us. Ok this is badly phrased but I hope you get my point.)

Sometimes I feel of about using plastic and trash, but other times I get very triggered by what I am doing – so much waste, so much for creation care. Sometimes I am in an absolute depressed state, other times hopeful (never lasting for long) and most of the time absolutely bored with existence. It sometimes seem like I fluctuate between depression and (mild?) mania.

These inconsistencies make me stumped when asked to describe myself to others. It’s difficult to condense people’s complex characters into words. I don’t think I’m experiencing an identity crisis now (because I simply don’t think about who I am as a person). The main problem is trying to 1) explain myself to people, and more importantly 2) trying to figure out my place in the world (actually, more like finding out what I want to do with my life. There are endless possibilities of what I can do, who I can become, but I don’t know what I should, what I would like to do. And time seems like it’s running out sometimes. Life is short.)

Everything is political

The realm of politics is a difficult one. I question why people can’t be honest and say things as they are instead of thinking of how to phrase it. Yet I know that shooting your mouth off can lead to disastrous consequences – communication is not just about what you intend to say but how other people take it. Language is fraught with manipulation – all kinds of language: spoken, body, even mathematics/statistics. I think about how politics work, after coming back from my trip: the politics of resource (what I’m meant to be learning), the politics of people (social politics, naturally learnt after spending such an extended time with others).

I question its study. I mean, it’s good to know about how politics work since it has a great influence on our lives. Yet, it’s kinda. Useless? Politics doesn’t change anything, it’s all about power plays, getting people to see your point of view (soft power), persuasion, how much people can or cannot see that they’re getting swayed. How much free will do people actually have?

I’m more interested in making REAL differences: new ideas, new policies, leaving the politics for other people to fight over. It’s good enough to simply know about its existence.

But maybe it’s just part of my personality. While I seem rather assertive, I think I’m pretty easy going with most decisions, even though I ‘may be at a loss’ (e.g. project groupings and how people made a fuss about it. But I think I’m generally ok with teaming up with ‘weaker’ people/being at a disadvantage or other situations like this). There will always be conflicts of interests and people will always try to sell their popular ideas/agendas to each other. But I think it natural and alright. As long as the decision is done in the ‘spirit of excellence’, and something is being done in the first place.

[I guess it’s like how I cannot fully understanding the aims of things like ISIS/wars and stuff about people being oppressed. Perhaps because I’ve never felt that FULL EXTENT of pain, I don’t know. To me, we all search for happiness and there are just too many factors that influence that. Just because you attain ‘freedom’/whatever your goals are doesn’t mean that you’ll be happy. The pain it takes to get there may be too much. Then again sure there are causes worth fighting for – for the benefit of the future. Fighting for women’s rights that kind of politics. Anyway.]

Expectations of being socially ‘good’// part 2/3

I guess I will write a little more about my personal take on social issues: (stream of consciousness/rant)


It’s no longer possible to simply see one person a day; with the (self-dictated) time I have (left, before I go for my trip), in order to meet everyone (and some people want to meet more than once), I’ve got to find more pockets of time – breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, dinner, supper, odd hours. Work, friends, family, personal time. I think right now I’m struggling to have enough time to ensure that everything that I do is meaningful, every meet, every conversation. I guess I don’t have enough time to absorb what I’m doing and that can make me unhappy. Sometimes, I just don’t get it. Meeting people makes me unhappy – saturation of information, having not enough time for myself etc. but not meeting people can be just as bad – feeling like I’m neglecting friends, having to make excuses, continuously cancelling on people. I think simply put I have no capacity, I admire people who have that capacity and I question why I am unable to do the same. To pack my days, have long drawn out hours, from dust to dawn, doing productive things, meeting people, connecting with friends etc. but I know it would drive me crazy.

I think everyone has the same issues. People often tell me that they resonate with what I’ve written. But I’m starting to feel that my feelings are different from others: quantitatively and qualitatively – it’s much deeper, much more intense. It doesn’t affect their lives in the same way that it does to me, just like there is a difference in being sad and being depressed. I’m a little uncertain about writing what I feel here (this is getting personal) but yolo just do it. Social anxiety can = being unable to sleep till 3am because I’m worried about meeting a friend the next morning at 8am and having a long day ahead. It’s a friend! Why should I be scared of meeting friends? Thoughts race in my head: I’m afraid of being bored (people bore me, something that I’ve felt/talked about since I was 15?), having nothing to talk about (rather, meaningless conversation). I’m afraid of wasting my time (I could be doing much better things – studying, reading, working etc.), of not having enough energy. I fear expectations of the meeting. Social anxiety can = cancelling on people at the last minute, refusing to see people, making excuses as to why I’m unavailable (? There is some truth in this, the question is: how hard should I exert myself? I suppose I don’t know myself well enough/I overestimate my capacity, I always feel like I’m under performing, I can and should be giving more of myself to the people I profess to love?) etc. I could go on and on about this stuff.


 

Short testimony// ‘coming out’

I realised I always feel pretty lost after receiving exam results. It’s never (too) ‘bad’ (at least, not unsalvageable. I do get Cs). I think that generally I’m a pretty good/average student (depending on how you look at it; this measure is in comparison with people around me). I think back to when I was 12 and 16; remembering a piece I wrote at 16, I wished I won’t do well for the national exam since I felt like I didn’t deserve good grades – didn’t work hard enough and hence I want to do badly so I’ll ‘wake up’ and ‘make use of my potential’. Now, I suppose I’m pushing myself much more, but many times whenever I get back a good grade, I’m kind of equally unhappy? I think about the meaninglessness of success and constant dissatisfaction: that I can and should be doing better, how other people do better without working as hard, random things like applying for a scholarship or something (but then doing that would give me stress, is it worth it?) etc.

I suppose I just question a lot about existence and purpose.

My main aim in life is to create eternal things; only 2 things I’ll be able to keep for the afterlife: my relationship with God and the souls that I ‘save’ to heaven. But there’s also other stuff/references, things like ‘making sure your works will stand the test of flames’ (Works: purified or fried https://bible.org/seriespage/9-works-purified-or-fried-1-corinthians-39-15 I take this to mean concepts like whether your work is genuine or not, are you doing it for yourself or for God etc.)

I’m doing a series about ‘sharing the gospel’; something else I struggle with is being explicit about my faith. I’m not very good at that. I thought that perhaps I shall write it out today, for future reference/or whatever purpose it may serve (for others/friends to read, to know about me? Wow, haha my blog is turning into something more personal than I had initially intended it to be).

Demise of a former self: (I’ll not elaborate too much, just bringing across the highlights)

An important turning point occurred when I was about, 17? I had fallen away from church when I was about 13/14 due to some issues (mostly about people there, which I still am finding hard to completely overcome).

Anyway. I went to a new school. Despite not going to church during those couple of years, I still believed that there was a God somewhere out there and I wanted to go back to church. But it’s very difficult to get back into the habit once you have not gone for so long. During those years I was thinking of changing churches (still do, sometimes) but I wasn’t very disciplined about doing so and committing to one. Eventually I ended up in the same church that I grew up in, because of many reasons like it being easier (my parents go there, there are countless articles about the negatives of church hopping and the consumerist culture – going to wherever gives you the most pleasure, instead of being engaged in building up a church. Taking instead of receiving etc.).

I decided to go (back) to church because of people I met, actually. Strangely, while ‘people’ was the reason I stopped going to church, they were exactly the same reason why I started going back. A different group of people though. I left because of a flawed community in my church, but I went back because of Christians I knew in school. I saw how they were passionate about their faith, how they lived it out, how they were happy, content and thriving. Teachers, students, who became friends and mentors. Good influences. I saw how their faith made them better people, and I wanted that for myself.

I’m a very different person than I was before and it’s hard a lot to reconcile that difference, especially since I have quite a lot of close friends from my pre 17 y/o self. I missed opportunities to tell them about this change.

I remember many people telling me that I’ve changed for the better: I used to swear in every sentence. I used to have ‘more angst’. I used to be a lot more stubborn, seeing things in black and white. I became a nicer person, I care more about my studies, I cleaned up my language etc. Without faith, I wonder if I would have done other ‘darker’ things: excessive partying/drinking/smoking/taking drugs hahaha I’ll never know. Maybe I would have ruined my life. Or perhaps not.

I can’t attribute it all to faith. It’s also part of growing up; meeting new people, being in a new culture where everyone around me was so sensitive. I couldn’t be as ‘disciplined’ and ‘harsh’ without people taking offence. Change comes about due to many causes.

I didn’t like it when people brought up these differences in me. Sometimes (often, it felt like), they did it in a mocking manner, like I’ve become unrecognisable, that I’m ‘holier (better) than thou’, they don’t know who I am anymore and we can’t connect? I didn’t want to lose my friends, so I’ll downplay the positive changes. I didn’t talk about going back to church, about these new good influences in my life (perhaps they weren’t popular, people would judge you if you were close to teachers? I don’t remember anymore). But I think these ‘good’ changes were tied quite closely with faith even though it didn’t seem like it.

I want people to know (I wish people knew) exactly how much faith means to me (because I can only think of

I guess I’m writing this as well, to remind me of the deep love I had for this, the passion and enthusiasm I had for topics regarding faith, at a time when I feel detached/lost.