Category: what

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.

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.

Baking Bread

Dearest ______,

I wish I could transport the heavenly smell wafting through my kitchen to you right now: kneaded dough slowly baking in olive oil and rosemary. It’s making me feel warm and fuzzy inside that if there ever was a competition on being the Best Hugger, the focaccia bread inside my oven would be winning at this very moment.

I’ve been actively adding recipes into my novice baking and cooking portfolio these past few years. Not for anything in particular but the bliss- pure bliss– I’ve come to discover in using my faculties to make something that ultimately fills me, feeds people. It’s kind of basic, really, feeding yourself. And yet I love how intrinsically essential it is to learn how to do it; make food.

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Time for Tea

Dearest ______,

I like it how in many parts of the world, tea is an event in itself. I became a recipient of bewildered looks inside a cafe in Casablanca once, when I ordered: “Tea. To go, please.” Older gentlemen huddled around tables were murmuring among themselves as staff behind the counter tried to explain that their cups didn’t come with covers, nor cardboard sleeves.

There I was, right at the beginning of a supposedly relaxing 10-day holiday, rushing to get a hot beverage “to-go” so I can, what, go drink it piping hot while aimlessly walking around? Relax and take several seats, giiirrrl.

For someone who has for years made coffee or tea a minor kickoff for some other thing (i.e. a full day of work, an all-nighter before exams, etc), It still strikes me as unnatural when people suggest that the thing itself is actually the tea. Or the coffee. I’ve met people for meals at all times of the day, always with sides of hot beverage. I’ve hung out, read books, written letters with coffee or tea close by.  But I don’t believe I’ve ever just said:

“Let’s meet for coffee (or tea)!”

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It’s been a couple of years since I started collecting and using my first “nice” crockery. That first one: vintage fine bone china in cobalt blue and gold inlay; an Old Royal from England (est 1846), made in the 1950’s. I’ve been collecting (and using) quite a few more since then, not one of them the least bit rare or expensive, to be honest. Nonetheless, they’re all special to me. Apart from telling stories about where I got each of them from, they’ve also become constant reminders of the ceremony of daily life– “the grand and the granular, both” (as a wise friend once put it).

We should all be so lucky as to have the time to pause and simply sit down to a hot beverage. And if we are, that just warrants a tiny celebration of gratitude, doesn’t it?

Love,

Karlita

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