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  • Writer's pictureKara San

Capsule 202011

"There were days in all their lives when things went wrong and they were forced to ask themselves if they wanted to go on. Decisions were made every day about what sort of life they wanted, and they always answered the same: Only this, only this. But that was the misery of trying to become something, misery that you could put up with because it was native to the act of trying." - Brandon Taylor, Real Life

As usual, here are the books I've read for the month:

  1. All Adults Here, Emma Straub

  2. Impractical Uses of Cake, Yeoh Jo-Ahn

  3. The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett

  4. Real Life, Brandon Taylor

  5. Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong

I've just started Cherian George's Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited and am listening to Jane Austen's Persuasion on audiobook.


A couple of videos that got me through particularly tedious days: milkcloud's painting Studio Ghibli scenes of canvas and Hanabira crafting a miniature dollhouse with a hidden door. Hanabira is a YouTuber who makes all these miniature dollhouses, buildings, shops, etc. from scratch, and their attention to detail is insane.

Apart from milkcloud and Hanabira, another YouTube channel that brings me delight is Simi TV, who also does DIY houses and the like, featuring their pet hamster.


I took one week of leave before starting my new job, since I was told I wouldn't be able to take leave for my first 6 months. Either way, my new organisation isn't as generous with leave days, so I can't just decide to take a day off when I'm feeling overextended. On my first day off, I cleaned out my closet and cleared anything I didn't think I needed.

As I was tossing out decade-old trinkets, too-small jeans, and faded T-shirts, I chanced upon a couple of handwritten letters from my cousin; she'd written the date on one of the letters, and I saw that it was written in 2006. Apart from that, the letter was written almost entirely in Burmese, except for a mention of The Sims 2 jumping out at me as the only thing I could read without struggling. So in the evening, I asked my mum to read the letters out to me and my sister, and it almost felt like she was reciting a spell, bringing us back to those days in Yangon when my cousin and my sister and I would sit around the desktop in her parents' room, playing non-educational computer games for a change.


On the note of being out of touch with one's mother tongue, Kirsten Han wrote this piece on "returning" to her mother tongue "on [her] own terms" which resonated with me. She wrote about Anglophone experiences and the way her parents' attempts at guilt-tripping her into taking more interest in her mother tongue by showing her white people speaking Mandarin better than her backfired, and that resonated with me. My parents used to do that to me all the way until my university days. In a way, I ended up consciously putting distance between myself and my ethnicity (and mother tongue) because I was tired of the assumptions and baggage that came with being a Burmese person in Singapore. It was largely reactionary to the microaggressions of being a minority, a kind of internalised self-hatred that I've been learning to outgrow.

That said, I'm also aware of where my experiences diverge from Kirsten Han's: Burmese isn't as widespread as Mandarin, there aren't as many resources available, and I never had the necessary formal education growing up to be able to grasp my language. I don't have interesting Burmese dramas on Netflix that I can watch to familiarise myself with the language, and I have next to zero exposure to Burmese literature. Even my experience reading Burmese literature is via translation into English.


On top of clearing my closet, I also kon-mari'd my bookshelf. It's a lot neater now that I've shifted a fraction of my old books into a cardboard box to give away.

Surprise (or not): I fell into yet another reading slump, and I don't even know why. It frustrated me all the more because I thought I'd be spending my work-free week reading more than usual and binge-watching shows on Netflix. Instead, I've been finding comfort in digital painting. I guess part of that comfort is from being free of expectations. When reading a book, I have to prepare myself to come up with a review once I finish reading it. I've been falling behind on coming up with these reviews. And there's also the issue of trying to take and edit a nice photo of the book for my bookstagram to accompany each review. When I'm drawing, it's purely for myself, and the only expectations are my own, along the lines of "how much longer until I can draw without relying 100% on references" or "when will I ever be as good as [insert artist name]?".

On the bright side, I spent some time during my week off to finally start Gilmore Girls and I'm loving it. Maybe I'd like to live vicariously through Rory, or it's just generally feel-good with enough touching moments, and I adore the mother-daughter relationship between Lorelai and Rory. And Michel's general misanthropy is hilariously relatable.

A small but significant highlight for the month is also that I finally got to go out and meet a friend! We mostly just went window-shopping in plant shops at Caldecott, but it's been forever since I met her, and I'm so grateful for that Saturday morning that ended too soon.

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