For a long while I had thought

that balancing was something I did particularly well.

What is this emotion that chokes up my chest
like luggage straps choking a down jacket that I only used at home?

As we have come to learn and write, balancing is something we do badly. Even balancing accounts is hard – I can’t get my debits and credits to line up.

Part of it is definitely that I should have practiced more for these papers when they are ultimately concepts and calculations. Though I like math, I think my luck has run out halfway, these don’t make sense the way things like circles and equations do.

I can only keep trying harder, and wondering if maybe I was going about these wrong to begin with. It didn’t help to miss those classes, and now I truly know nothing of what I do know – and what I do not know.

We do not balance – we prioritise. And prioritising means sacrificing. Now, sacrifice is something that we do extraordinarily well – only it is not just us, or our blood that we spill on those altars.

With our own hands, we choke the lives out of each other, and cut off pieces of us that make us happy, make us tired, make us ‘us’ and leave them there.

As if a greedy man can pass through the eye of a needle, as if what was needed to do well was to reduce us to plain machines, or maybe that is the answer.

So I am not fitting into this round hole not because I am a square peg, but because I have yet to be carved into shape. Like Cinderella’s sisters: what is a toe or two in the face of a desirable marriage?

So I am my greatest foe.

That cannot be the conclusion. I am my strongest ally and I will not forsake this portion of me which is greedy – which wants – which loves – which tires – which feels.

These are the things that we write when we are on holiday. Was the solution then to get busy? Of course not.

This period which is pure holiday, or as pure of a holiday as I will have for the next three months, I must enjoy it to the fullest by sleeping.

That is what I am going to do.

If I do not have to let my mind rest on the end to my evening, or my fingers on the prickle of freshly cut hair at the back of my neck.

If those thoughts of that did not have to surface at this time, then I could rest fully.

For a while, I have been trying to give words to that emotion which we have talked about, reflected on and processed and re-processed.

While trauma is the best word I can come up with, it only describes half the emotion I feel – that I felt this evening when they invaded our room with a smile in their voice.

I hate that I noticed the marks the rain left on them – that if I had not caught myself, instinctively I wanted to ask if it were raining. To express that I had noticed that they got wet in the rain, that they might fall sick, that they should take care of themselves.

That I wanted to, and would, for any other person I knew, express that kind of concern. To realise that I actively wanted to not be kind to this person. To realise that it would take effort if I really wanted to take revenge or even just to try and not make this person mistake my kindness for any kind of forgiveness. (I will not forgive. I will not.)

That it took effort to give the briefest response, that by now I don’t even know who I am trying to help.

Is it that I know that co-counsel of mine simply hates small talk so it is pointless to put in the energy, or that I don’t want to talk to this person at all?

I don’t know.

But I know that their presence filled up the air in our Air room and I was suffocating because of my own emotions. These are self-inflicted but borne out of trauma and my inability to forgive.

That room belongs to us.

So why does it stop feeling like home when he enters the room?

That room is ours.

So why is it that after fifteen minutes my heart had already made the decision for me that I was going to pack up and leave.

To remove myself from an uncomfortable situation such that I would not force myself to suffer.

Why does it feel so much like I was running away?

And why does that feel so annoying and so frustrating? Why am I running away? Why must I be the one to leave?

I imagined walking past them in the corridor. I did not imagine sharing that limited volume of air in our air room, even though I knew that it was perfectly likely.

Put it another way, I was not ready to confront this.

Confront my emotions and the realisation that I was finding it hard to breathe because they were just sitting there.

He did not have to do anything, not even open his mouth any more.

It used to be okay – I could bear with him until he opened his mouth.

Now I cannot even have that.

I felt the way the air in the room stilled, the way our zoom room fell silent when he entered the call.

or maybe, now, there was no one else in that room to bring me oxygen.

That, must be what we call a fundamental mismatch.

The next time this happens, I will leave immediately, so that even the densest rock will understand that it was you that I couldn’t stand.

Only he is worse than a rock, and I will only savour my own satisfaction of freedom.

But that is not a bad taste. How bittersweet, I could enjoy it.

That as it turned out, after all this time, I was still waiting for change?

So it comes as some relief to hear from R that he is changing. But that, as M observes, makes us the experiment, the people who bore the brunt of his unkindness

Why did we have to suffer for his inadequacies?

I cannot tell you how much I want to see you suffer.

And yet, I know, even if I were to watch you suffer forever, that would not bring me catharsis. Or, at least, enough catharsis to erase this feeling that I have that we were wronged by your existence.

It’s strange. how that feeling assailed me when I saw him. And also relieving that after I stop seeing them I completely forget that I felt this way.

That must be moving on, and the process of letting go of this baggage.

It is probably the group setting that eases this emotion. That there are enough people who sat between us and that we were in the open air, that made it so much easier to breathe.

I had also been prepared, and V had told us also that he seemed better.

The indignity of being an experiment is eased just slightly by the fact that he was better.

This is also moving on. From this part of our lives, from a difficult year, and trying to reorder these years of mine which were thrown into chaos by my own carelessness.

There were so many things at stake. I’m glad that ah ma didn’t seem too concerned – which was strange since she was an accountant.

She had the best reaction of everyone. And that’s okay, I just need to graduate on time, earn money and continue rolling. As long as I keep moving everything is going to be fine.

I will be fine.

Coming back to the thought that I started on before all of this. As it turned out, I wasn’t good at balancing.

Here’s to wishing ourselves better luck this year ahead, doing that – balancing and prioritising.

To the feeling of being busy, but not too much so. M is right, we were trained by the trauma of something biting at our ankles and waiting to tear us down – that the competition was supposed to consume our lives and that if we did not find it difficult, we were not working hard enough.

But as I said – why must we kill ourselves?

Why is it bad that we can have a healthy team that does not drag each other down?

Why is it bad to have a competition with a shorter problem, shorter rundown, better team composition, more comfortable working environment?

And so what if we got the better ends of the stick this round?

Even though we are already better off, that doesn’t mean you lose the right to complain.

I love my team.

The topic leaves much to be desired when everything is disparate even if its cool because two countries are duking it out, and there are not many facts to fall back on. When there are the same number of issues but so few cases to trawl through, the same amount of speaking time and that much shorter a memo, the shorter run time and the fewer number of PRs.

But my team gives and takes – and I was given. That I have had the advantage of their kindness and patience. That I want to be careful with these two who are important to me.

Another period of pure holiday. Or not ‘pure’, not as pure, but pure enough that I made it this way.

The first Chinese New Year eve (and 初一) ever that I spent without my immediate family. Come to think of it, today was the first day and I woke up when it was nearly over.

There isn’t a lot of time to think of it that way, and yesterday was a busy day making my first croissants.

I think it was wrong to keep thinking only ‘keep the butter cold’, and I have to think more about keeping it pliable. I made a lot of croissants, but they are not good enough to give away.

It would also feel like too much of a loss to give each croissant away in boxes of ten hours, because that was our time, our frustrations and our patience, bundled into dough and baked in freedom.

I had hot pot this CNY with father’s friend’s mother and family. Among this family is a junior from law school that I have not seen in school at all.

What I liked best was that the family talked at their dinner table in the way I imagine they would talk even if I were not there. It’s strange to eat at a table where you are not family but where everyone was kind.

Where in two languages on each side of me there are people trying to give me food and there is a conversation about the news and about work and travelling, and there is father’s friend taking little jibes at him, and a wife scolding her husband for not eating vegetables and the son who protests that he’s had some.

It was a different kind of family.

It was a long time ago, that is immortalised in quotations, but this uncle had called me a smart alec and I had been pleased – and thinking back about this apparent memory, I am still.

The emotion of “what a mouthy and sharp-tongued brat” that I received in fondness is something that I think of each holiday seasons rolls around and we visit this family. Not in the least because it’s hard to be a brat now.

Not in the least because there is still a child inside of all of us.

But because it was easy to be around people like that who speak easily and hold silence for a pause – that if I had tried to leave earlier, they would not have let me go – that if I had stayed too long, then I would wonder too much.

Whether that emotion from you was real or fake

That doesn’t matter to me.

But if that was the emotion you were trying to convey

Then I heard it.

If you are happy, then I’m glad too.

After all, we were only,


well met.

And for the other, I will stand by your side.

That emotion that wraps you up

and makes you glow

it makes me smile and I pray that you

will not despair.

That is how I have seen emotions to be

what an irrational thing it is,

it is to be feared.

The emotion that I have is some kind of love.

But since it does not abscond with my

rationality, then it is not real.

This kind of love, sure.

I am not afraid to say that I love you all.


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