#narcloudiaMNL

Dearest ______,

I’d been quietly arranging both flowers and life in my hometown when Bea suddenly broached the idea of flying to Manila for a long weekend with the band to play… and play. I said HELL YEAH within ten minutes. We’d been gigging together as Narcloudia in Singapore for around four years now, and my new non-status in life had just started making me more open to saying YES to most things these days. It was just about time, kismet and all.

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Writings on the Wall

Dearest ______,

Some people believe pop psych writer Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule. You know, how he supposes that it takes precisely 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become great at any one thing. When I first heard this theory years ago, I had a tiny panic at the thought of not being able to have enough time in my “youth”– approximately 10,000 hours to spare– to master what I truly wanted to be good at. I was halfway down my 20’s and had been agonising: “If I were supposed to be amazing at something, shouldn’t I be amazing at it by now? How is one supposed to be great at something— or at the very least, in the midst of aiming at greatness– when one doesn’t even know what that something is?” On and on these anxious little thoughts do plague an imaginative girl’s head for long stretches of time.

It’s been years since the 10,000 Hour Rule was rightfully debunked. And even longer, since I debunked most of my personal anxieties caused by other baseless assumptions in successful living. These days, I’m more inclined to listen to ballsier people like Amy Poehler who wrote:

I guess the Buddhists would call this idea healthy detachment. Too often we are told to visualize what we want and cut out pictures of it and repeat it like a mantra over and over again. Books and magazines tell us to create vision boards. Late- night commercials remind us that “anything is possible.” Postive affirmations are written on our tea bags. I am introducing a new idea. Try to care less. Practice ambivalence. Learn to let go of wanting it. 

I will  say it again. Ambivalence is key.

You  have to care about your work but not the result. 

With lesser opinions and more facts (i.e. to-do-lists) written on the wall, the more things actually get done.  And while we definitely need more practice– for work, for talent, for passion, for ambivalence, for kindness, for life, etc– at least all this actual practicing helps to forget the time. Whether it’s been 20 hours or 10,000 hours or 33 years of living, we’re (mostly) still having fun.

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And surely fun is a momentary vestige of success, however momentary that may be?

Love,

Karlita

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Photography and text by Author unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

Occupied (At Open Sea)

Dearest ______,

I had to fill up some paperwork today. Adult stuff. It felt weird, having to let my pen hover above blank spaces longer than I’d been used to for years. I only say “weird” because a better-fitting adjective escapes me at the moment. Bizarre? Surreal? Unreal?

For the first time in a couple of months, someone’s finally asked me what I actually do. Granted that someone just happened to be a piece of paper. Nonetheless, there was more weight in one word than all the conversations I’ve had to make this past two months: “OCCUPATION” screamed a little louder than before, coming from one inquisitive document. As my hand unwittingly went up and down, the empty lines seemed to demand an answer: are you Casually Employed? Self-Employed? Unemployed? A Quasi-architect? Would-be-florist? Semi-housewife?

Suddenly it hit me, how I’ve always had to justify myself– who I am, at least– by what I do for a living. For many years, I’ve been resolutely, most assuredly, a working Architect. And now with this, the current state of career flux that I find myself in, nothing seems to buoy me. As with being at open sea, the fluidity has been exciting me and challenging me and even threatening the very idea of “ME”. Only today, with pieces of paper expectantly waiting for answers, someone just seemed to suddenly check on me like an impatient sea mate: “Where are we going, Captain? Where are we? Are we there yet?”

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And to that, I finally say:

“I know where we’re going. And I trust what’s out there. We look up the stars not only for direction but their beautiful solace, knowing how this journey will not be short nor always this smooth-sailing.

But we just need to keep on going.”

I tick more than two boxes on the bloody pieces of paper.

Love,

Karlita

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Photography and text by Author unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

Last Tree Standing

Dearest ______,

During one of those long drives around the country, I spotted this lone tree– barely alive; barely erect– right in the middle of an expanse of flat land. The last tree standing, what it’s fighting for, nobody knows.

I hear of people like Yohji Yamamoto or even Joan Rivers who want (or wanted, for the latter) nothing in life but to work until the end. For the sake of the work; the craft; the baby, more than anything else. And I truly respect that, the notion of a tree just being a tree until it no longer is.

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Love,

Karlita

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Photography and text by Author unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

Patterns

Dearest ______,

The older we get, the more we understand how very little in the world is actually and truly unique. As opposed to many years ago, when we donned (the idea of) our innate uniqueness like an armour (i.e. heartbreaks that no one else had ever felt in the past, goals that were very particular results of our individually unique struggles, ideas that no one had ever thought of before, etc).

Through the years though, we’ve grown to appreciate the thought of shared experiences. With the Internet these days, it’s so much easier to see how “everybody is just like everybody else.” Call it Collective Consciousness, or simply the shrinking of the world: most of us know now of lives similar to ours, only lived across different continents around the world.

With divisiveness and extreme Nationalism being some of the most glaring threats to the World Wide Web free world today, we aim to see patterns in our shared humanity. Humankind, that one true race that trumps man-made geographical borders, societal categories, and religious belief systems.

And we should aim to see patterns, so we can be more appreciative; genuinely accepting of the differences that are inherently sewn into our individualities and even our collective cultures.

Love,

Karlita

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Photography and text by Author unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

Oranges

Dearest ______,

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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Living in Singapore, I’ve learned that Mandarin Oranges are an auspicious symbol of good fortune because “tangerine” in Chinese sounds similar to the word “luck” or “wealth”. Hence you see people gifting households with oranges as a way of wishing a home prosperity and an abundance of happiness. More so during the Chinese New Year season (as it is now), it isn’t uncommon to find small trees bearing these fruits all around houses and buildings to usher in good luck.

This CNY, while I do wish that everybody receives plentiful gifts of “tangerine”, I’m also hoping that we all learn how to pick them off of the trees ourselves. May this Year of the Rooster bring each of us the most effective wake-up calls to earnestly grab opportunities and obligations alike, in wake of all our coming days.

Carpe diem! Or, Carpe them oranges! 

Love,

Karlita

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Photography and text by Author unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

Country Road

Dearest ______,

Whenever we take road trips around the countryside, it always surprises me when I see solitary figures walking purposefully across miles and miles of flat land; up and down expanses of treelined hills. Sometimes they walk with four- legged friends, sometimes completely alone. But always, walking to directions navigated by their own biological compasses, the same internal makeup that allows them to wake up right before dawn.

In the heart of Mother Nature at her most naked form, unshaven and undone: proof of (human) life! Sons and daughters of the earth.

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