I got braces today

Today is the day where the next ~2 years of my life will be forever changed.

I'm getting braces.

I dreaded it the entire morning. I heard about how you get ulcers and cuts and that it hurts, and I wanted to back out. It's more rules, more inconveniences, and more pain. I was filled with pessimism. But I got a lot of messages from my friends this morning, and it helped tip the balance. I'm reminded that there are people out there that care. I was filled with gratitude.

I continued my 100 days of Swift lessons. Before I could finish, my dad was coming home to give us a ride to the dentist.

In the car, I read the agony of eros: dating by Ava.

  • dating is hard because it brings out all your attachment issues, problems you've inherited from your parents, primal fear of rejection, so it's really hard to fake who you are. Your true self always slips out
  • two emotional factors to dating being less awful: self-awareness and tactful honesty
  • people know what they want but they rarely know what they need. we have this idea of the "ideal partner", an amalgamation of qualities they find sexually attractive, qualities their social group values, and qualities that would flatter their ego. but they don't know what great emotional connection feels like
  • the real thing people should be actively looking for is strong emotional connection: to what degree can I share who I am with this person, do they get it, how interested are they with who I am, my feelings and thoughts, can we accommodate each other's preferences, are we good at talking.
  • we're not taught how to ask hard questions of ourselves and others. we believe that social reality is more important than individual reality, that being with someone who makes you look good is better than being with someone who makes you feel good.
  • we live in a time where we have more optionality and less transparency than ever before

Upon arriving, the doctor explains that it'll take an hour and ten minutes, and it'll be boring and painless. He asks if I brought my earphones to listen to some music.

First, he cleans my teeth a tiny electric brush and a kind of red powdery cream, then he begins explaining the glue and the UV lights that holds the metal brackets to my teeth. While he placed the brackets one by one, on each of my imperfectly positioned teeth, he starts talking about the food restrictions. No nuts, apple-like-hardness fruits, no candy, no chewing gum, no soda. I was fine with all that, but the banning of nuts was pretty upsetting because that's my go-to snack.

As he was progressed patiently teeth by teeth, and methodically completed each sections of my teeth, I slowly realize this wasn't going to be easy. I could feel the metal brackets piercing on my mouth. I had less freedom. The way I ate, spoke, and smile, they're all different now.

I was listening to the podcast How to be sad, with Helen Russell

  • experiencing temporary sadness can counterintuitively make us happier. Sadness happens. we need to sit with it for a while, and that's normal. It helps us connect with our fellow human beings. It's an important emotion that shouldn't be ignored.
  • in western cultures, we deal in absolutes; we think of humans as binary: happy or sad, depressed or not depressed. in east asian culture, there's an idea that you can experience more than one emotion simultaneously. You can be happy and sad in a given moment.
  • americans are outliers in their desire to minimize negative emotions and pursue happiness. the pioneer values: the idea that go getters are people who didn't sit still with negative states, they went out there and did stuff, and are seen to prosper
  • the idea Ubuntu philosophy: I am because you are; I cannot be content and live a fulfilled life if the people around me are suffering, are struggling. it's very much a collective social ideology, a stark contrast with the wellness rooted in individualism today.
  • sadness is a temporary emotion you feel on occasions where you've been hurt or something is wrong in our lives. it is a message that can tell is what is wrong depression is a perpetual state of sadness, it being the only emotion you feel.
  • Russia has dozens of words for specific types of sadness. Tosca, for ex, means great spiritual anguish. In America, it's happy, sad, and nothing.
  • They have much more acceptance of sadness. there's no pressure to have a happy ending. No "don't cry", "just smile". If you see a child fall, instead of "don't cry, it's okay", it might be more helpful to say "that must've really hurt, I can see you're in pain" acknowledging that emotion rather than dismissing it (which leads to shame), can help the child handle it and therefore help the adult handle it.

When he put on the wires, the pressure that distressed me the entire day began. Despair was washing over me. I didn't want to deal with this. When I'm going through moments like these, I get quiet. I have conversations with the different selves in me. I try to make sense of what I'm feeling. I try to label this emotion. Is this regret? Why am I regretting this? I wanted this for so long? Is this anger? That I just had bad genes that resulted in crooked teeth? What am I really feeling?

I booked a grab home, and in the car I was scrolling through Twitter, unfollowing accounts that provide no value to me because I found out that having a low following-follower ratio boosts your account.

At home, I sought solace, a comfort to distract me from the gnawing pain that rings in my head like a sharp bell.

As I ate my blended meal, the first of many to come, I watched Cherrien's latest vlog. Her videos are so soothing and calming, they make me want to move to Seoul and pursue art, go to book stores and cafes, and capture all the little joys in my life.

She talks about Just Kids by Patti Smith, applauding her eloquence, which she defines as the ability to say what you want to say in a hundred different ways. I like what she said about how giving love to someone or to anything in your life is a greater gift than receiving great love, because in order to feel that much it takes a lot of spirit and sacrifice. And you learn a lot by giving and feeling love for someone or something in your life.

I began to miss book stores. Vincent van Gogh shares my sentiment

“So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me, and reminded me that there are good things in the world.”

The Yellow Books, 1887, Vincent van Gogh

The Yellow Books, 1887, Vincent van Gogh

After that I watched The Dior Book Tote Club with Rosamund Pike @ Hatchards Piccadilly in London

She's so classy. She mentioned the book Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion which is the next on my reading list. It contains her infamous essay "On Self-Respect" She regards Joan Didion as one of the most concise, pertinent observers of people, and that it's always worth spending time with her words because she was curious, and curiosity is where freedom and interest lies. She also shares A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara as a book that will make you cry, and it's one of those books that make you think "How did this come out of you?"

I watched another one, The Dior Book Tote Club with Nine d'Urso @ Librairie Galignani in Paris

An interesting book in this video was The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon

Sei Shonagon was a lady-in-waiting to the Empress of Japan during the Heian period. She was given some extra paper lying around and she decided to make a pillow book where she jotted down stories, memories, lists, and whatever else came into her head.

Some quotes I like:

“In life there are two things which are dependable. The pleasures of the flesh and the pleasures of literature.”

“185. It Is Getting So Dark I am the sort of person who approves of what others abhor and detests the things they like.”

“ 134. Letters are Commonplace Letters are commonplace enough, yet what splendid things they are! When someone is in a distant province and one is worried about him, and then a letter suddenly arrives, one feels as though one were seeing him face to face. Again, it is a great comfort to have expressed one's feelings in a letter even though one knows it cannot yet have arrived. If letters did not exist, what dark depressions would come over one! When one has been worrying about something and wants to tell a certain person about it, what a relief it is to put it all down in a letter! Still greater is one's joy when a reply arrives. At that moment a letter really seems like an elixir of life.”

The pressure and pain was travelling to my head so I started reading.

The current book I'm reading now is Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing

I liked this paragraph from the introduction.

We're so often told that art can't really change anything. But I think it can. It shapes our ethical landscapes; it opens us to the interior lives of others. It is a training ground for possibility. It makes plain inequalities, and it offers other ways of living.

I also finished the chapter on Jean Michel Basquiat. It's interesting to read about his background, his rise to fame, the cultural and racism context behind his art, and his unfortunate end. I first discovered him from UNIQLO, I had a "Pez Dispenser" t-shirt that I really liked. The most surprising thing was how close he was with Andy Warhol. I didn't know they collaborated on over 140 paintings, and how Warhol's death accelerated the march to his own demise as well.

I need to get my hands on his notebooks now. It's an intimate act to look at drawings and sketches of artists, his notebooks includes iconic drawings and pictograms of crowns, handwritten texts, including notes, observations, and poems on culture, race, class, and his life in NYC.

It started raining really heavily. I went for my derm appointment when the rain died down. My dad came back again to give us a ride. He's been taking time out of work to give us rides and I'm very appreciative and grateful for that. I got chemical peels that made my body incinerate like blue fire kissing my skin.

I ordered a grab to a township near my house. I wanted to go to Dao Desserts to get Douhua, 豆花. My mom and I walked home. She got a vege bao on the way. We saw a bunch of stray cats. I took a lot of pictures. I wanted to appreciate the little joys.

Desa Setapak

Desa Setapak

I came back home, ate one bowl of the Douhua, and finished my iOS lessons.

I wanted to get a workout in, so I did some lifting while I watched some videos from the "In the Library" series by Chanel.

I love listening to French people, I just love the language so much. It sounds so aesthetically pleasing. It made me want to start learning French again.

Charlotte's books:

Alma's books.

I ate more blended food for dinner. My family came in my room to observe my teeth and my temperament. Why was I not happy they asked. I'm still in pain, and maybe shock, disbelief.

I was filled with a sense of dread the entire day, and still am as I'm writing this. I'm going to have to live with this for the next 2 years. How would my friends think of me? How would strangers think of me? How can I develop relationships if I have these metal things on my teeth that make me look like I'm 15. I start judging myself, I start to predict the future. I'm beginning to trust that voice in my head that is untrustworthy and illogical. But these thoughts are not me.

This is what I consumed today, and I realize I'm coping with pain and suffering with art and books. I discovered new books today, and reaffirmed certain books that I already wanted to read. I just want bookstores and good books now, learn about the history and lives of artists. This is my life now. I spent the past 3 hours writing this. It's a privileged life, one that I'm glad I get to live. And one I have to appreciate while it lasts. It's not an easy life, it's not easy to have to go through all this, but I'm discovering myself, I'm meeting my shadows, and I'm finding the answers to the two most important questions in life: "who am I" and "what do I want".