Like Listening to Your Own Voice

I had never really liked him. I did not have any obvious or compelling reason not to like him, and why I disliked him had been a question that had bugged me for some time. I had come up with some answers, some more reasonable than others, but today I think I found an answer that appears to be the most likely of the lot.

Listening to your own voice

“Listening to your own voice,” she said, “is like eeeeeeeee…”

We were testing my MP3 player’s voice recording function, and playing back our voices on the computer. The moment she said this, I started wondering why. It wasn’t just her, but me as well, that couldn’t quite stand the sound of their own recorded voice.

I’d always found that my voice sounded terrible when recorded. It wasn’t so much the difference per se, for I knew that I was going to sound different when listening to the playback of my own voice, but that it simply sounded bad.

It wasn’t only until I started practising speaking through a microphone, honing my voice to suit what I thought I should sound like that I started finding my own voice acceptable.

I guess the point I am trying to drive at with this analogy is that it was so much easier to hear the flaws in my own voice through the recording and subsequent playback of my own speech.

Watching the self

When I see him, I see me. He, the person I dislike, tends to remind me of myself. I find so many parallels between us that it’s scary.

So my mind is saying, “if you share so many characteristics, you must be like him in every other way.”

But when I look at him, I do not like what I see… not at all! I see ill-discipline; I see cunning; I see sloth.

And when I think about what my mind is saying, I start thinking that what I’m seeing are things — characteristics — that are latent within me.

And I get scared.

I tell myself that I cannot be like that.

And disliking him is simply my way of disliking the self I do not wish to become.

The Friend Bell Curve

A friend of mine wrote:

So the issue comes up again. After a few months, the people in [Currie Hall] have all drifted into cliques. Typical of [S]ingaporeans.

But I have to disagree with him. I think he’s being a little too harsh on Singaporeans.

People all over the world drift into cliques; it’s simply part and parcel of being human. We all have some people whose company we prefer over others. Pretending it’s otherwise — that we all should treat each other on equal footing, that we like each other equally — is a ridiculous concept.

I asked another friend of mine if he intended to move out of Currie Hall. He told me that though he’d get much closer to the people he moved out with, he’d have much fewer friends.

I, having intended to move out for a long time, asked him (rhetorically) how many real friends he had here. “Not everyone here’s your friend,” I said.

He thought about it for a while, and seemed to agree with me, at least somewhat.

I continued, “I once tried to be everyone’s friend. But I found that I was spreading myself too thin. I realised I couldn’t put into every relationship or friendship equal amounts of energy. After a while, I realised that I had to focus energies on a smaller group of friends.”

“I never,” he said, pausing a moment or two, “thought about it that way. I guess I never really had any close friends.”

It didn’t really surprise me that he told me that. My friend was a diplomat, someone that had no close friends, but who made no enemies, at least not here in Currie Hall. I, too, was once such a person, and probably to some extent still am. But I made the conscious choice to limit my circle of close friends, realising that I couldn’t give everyone the same amount of “me”.

I felt it would be unreasonable to expect a 100% from every single relationship in a large circle of friends when I could only give each 60% of my energies.

“My circle of friends started out small,” I said, “small but close. Then expanded to a large circle of friends, though not really close. Over time, I found the circle of friends shrinking, but within these friends our friendships were stronger.”

I paused for a while, and then added, “it’s like a bell curve! Few friendships grow to become many, then shrink again.”

It’s just the way life goes.

Top Student

“So, you prepared for your [Statistics] test tomorrow?” he asked me.

“Well, sort of,” I replied.

“Going to be the top student?”

That was a most unexpected question. This semester has been, in the words of another friend, my sabbatical. “Nah,” I said, “I know who my competition is.”

I forgot what he said next, but it was along the lines of, “so they studied hard?”

“The competition is my neighbour lar,” I said.

He looked at me, gave me a knowing look, and smiled.

I smiled back. He understood.

Road Trip: Swan Valley

The study break (is it “break from” or “break for” study?) is nearly over. Today’s Friday, though it feels like it ought to be Wednesday.

Just before the break, I had two mid-semesters tests. I told myself that if I did reasonably well for both of them, I’d take it as a second-chance God (or fate or their equivalent) had given me, and I’d work especially hard during the break to catch-up.

I did (very) well for both these tests; definitely much better than I had expected. So during this study break, I did some reading up on my work, making good on my promise to myself. It has been a tad less than I’d have hoped, but I’ll take it as a start.

10 more weeks till the end-of-semester exams, so there’s (hopefully still plenty of) time for me to accelerate my studying as I approach it.

Road Trip to Swan Valley

One of the highlights of this study break has definitely been the road trip to Swan Valley on Tuesday. There were four of us on this road trip: me (passive passenger), Wei Hao (navigator #2) , Lishya (navigator #1), and the 17 turning 18-year-old driver, Josephine.

A pity Han and Athena couldn’t make it, but there’ll be plenty more opportunities! I’m hoping that the next road trip I go on I’ll be the driver, ha!

Pictures from the Trip

First stop, some winery I do not know the name of (haha):
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Then onto the Mondo Nougat (a nougat factory):
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Then to some other winery:
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We also visited a chocolate factory:
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At one point we got a little lost, looking for a place that didn’t exist anymore. And we saw a horse:
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Some place near the Indian Ocean (just before reaching Josephine’s house where we had a wonderful, wonderful dinner):
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Taking the Raft

In many teachings of Buddhism, Buddhism itself has been compared to a raft used to cross a river. After it has served its purpose (i.e. used to cross the river), it should be discarded or let go.

I had always thought myself to be agnostic, rejecting God insofar as He cannot be proven. But I think that after I decided to turn officially “agnostic” (and moving away from my Catholic roots), I’ve held many beliefs that are closer to being atheistic than agnostic.

I’ve found myself developing in me an aversion to religion, and felt that if I ever turned back to religion, it would have been a sign of weakness.

But just today, feeling a little depressed and helpless, I found myself needing some form of affirmation. I needed something or someone to tell me that everything was going to be alright. And I felt a very strong urge to pray.

But I fought it.

And then I started asking myself, “why discard the raft when you haven’t even used it yet?”

Bad Puns

Warming: Using these puns may get you seriously injured. (“In Jured? Where’s Jured?”)

  • Lying in bed at night, I swore to tell the truth one day.
  • In two years, I have ear wax.
  • “You very mean, ah!” “Yes, you very minah…” (It’s Melayu)
  • “Have you ever met a politician who stands?” “Huh?” “I mean, they all just keep lying you know.”
  • “Have you any nice puns?” “Naw. All my pants are ugly.”
  • “You heard about the protein powder?” “Yeah. I heard the anti-teen organisation banned it.”
  • “Okay, my telephone number’s 6373-7852.” “He did?” “Huh?” “Seven ate five too? Wow… I guess nine wasn’t enough.”

Mid-Semester Exams

And the mid-semester exams are here!
And what am I supposed to feel?

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I haven’t prepared as much as I should have for this mid-semester. Although I must say that after last semester’s end-of-semester exams, I’ve more or less gotten the hang of what needs to be done when it comes to academia.

Still, the lack of preparation has been preying on my mind — subtly no doubt, but still significant. I’ve been a little less, can I say, jovial? Less enthusiastic on conversation; as if my mind was elsewhere.

And that’s no surprise is it? when at the back of my mind is a little voice saying, “you haven’t been a naughty boy, Donn. Haven’t been studying, have you?”

But I’m hoping that after the mid-semesters are over (or at least the two papers before the study break two weeks from now) I’ll be more my usual self.

Which brings me to ponder: what is my usual self?

I’ve had this strange feeling of lacking a self ever since I entered the army. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always been very introverted, and it was only after going through the army that a more extroverted, network-savvy self came out.

Now, there are two reasons why this might be so: the first is that the upbringing (including school and other social settings) I’d been through provided me no opportunities to awaken the latent extroverted me. The second reason is that the army instilled in me a faux extroversion: in other words, it’s all pretences.

I would, of course, prefer the former to the latter, but who’s to say what’s right and what’s wrong right?

During times of stress, I revert to my more introverted self, with moments of extroversion. I’ve read somewhere that it is during high-pressure times that your true self (whatever that may be) shows itself.

If this was true, then I guess I’m an introverted person with a developed extroverted streak. Which is that I’ve felt I was all along.

I guess I had better go back to studying. It may perhaps get rid of the voice in my head telling me what a bad boy I’ve been, and allow me to utilise my natures (note the plural).