Midnight Malarkey

a peek inside the poetic freak



So what’s your story?

“Tell me more about yourself.”

If you’re above 18 and have never been asked that, mail me and tell me what kind of life you’re living. That question is the safe starting point for interviews, first dates, or when you just want to get rid of awkward silences but skip the small talk. It’s crucial information to give people context on who you are and what make a list of appropriate topics to converse on. It’s that small bit of info you put at the top of a resume or you say in class on the first day with a new teacher.

And you, dear reader. Yes, you. How would you answer?

Common answers would include age, gender, place of birth/origin/current residence, where you go to work/education, hobbies.

Seriously, is that the best thing you can tell about yourself?

What about that one song you always play when you’re down? What about your life’s biggest achievement, or dream, or come back after a failure when the world felt like it was about to end? What about that one spot where you’re ticklish but no one knows, or that one thing you’re dying to try but afraid of the social repercussions?

You’re a human being, a unique compilation of selected social patterns that society has sculpted combined with your own individual traits. Don’t tell me that yellow is your favorite color or you’re the first child of three. Tell me what’s the most uncertain thing about the future that terrifies you, or your first memory. If it has to be something about color, tell me the color that you see when you first gain consciousness—the first seconds before you open your eyes to snooze the alarm clock (for the third time before a relative finally drags you out of bed).

I find it so heartbreaking when a friend tells me about their problems or just monologs on about their thoughts and then apologizes for making me listen to them. Did you read that right? They’re apologizing for thinking that their life struggles are unworthy of being listened to. They’re apologizing for expressing themselves.

Tell me more about yourself, darn it. Tell me what sparks your passion—that twinkle in your eyes when you talk, that slight stutter because you have so much to say about that one thing or person you love most. Who hurt you and made you think the mind is big enough to hold your thoughts but the universe isn’t? Who so excruciatingly cut your soul into little thin strips of hope you keep to yourself? Who made you believe you shouldn’t show others the causes you’re fighting for because it might just jinx all the efforts you’ve put into it, and that embarrassment of failure is a roadblock from starting again?

You’re a human being, a unique compilation of stories from selected experiences society forces you to undergo combined with your own individual choices. Don’t tell me who’s the first person you fell in love with or what you wore on your first day of something. I want to know how you figured out “Oh my gosh, this is it, this is love!” and how you calmed your nerves enough to tell that special someone.

This may make you uncomfortable. That’s okay. You’ve been conditioned to keep private information like that to yourself. That, or you’re an introvert, which is also okay. Or you’re more invested in the other person’s story, which is—surprise, surprise—okay as well.

I don’t have a point to tell from all of this. I just want to let you know that people like me exist in your life. That nice people who greets everyone passing by, the barista at your favourite café, the stranger you made eye contact with and gives that smile, expecting a conversation to start. We’re all around you, or maybe you’re one of us. In that case, you’re a story collector like me, and probably dying to tell some of the inspirational things you’ve learned about people and life.

So when you meet one of us and get that question, surprise us. Tell us your favourite cheesy joke, or that one time you felt accomplished. And even in formal occasions like interviews, pause before you answer. Think about this:

Seriously, is that the best thing you can tell about yourself?



On Using and Being Used

I’ve had my share of using people and being used by people. I know how annoying it is when someone depends on you too much for help, and I know how reticent yet desperate one can be to get help.

For my part, I’ve also had people who shut the doors and say up front that they’re too busy at the moment or they’d rather I try to get help somewhere else for a change. I’ve also been on the other side—trying to sugarcoat rejection (a habit which is slowly diminishing, thank God), trying to come up with an explanation that won’t get me in unnecessary drama with people who take everything personally, you know the likes.

The thing is, being in a (still relatively) new environment reminded me that lots of people try to beat around the bush. Recently someone’s asked me for help. She wants me to check her materials and whether or not the way she brings it during class would be good. I’ve been doing that since junior high, so that’s not really a problem.

During the actual meeting, though, that’s not what happened. I checked her materials, asked her what she’s come up with. Then she asked me to present it. Then she asked if she could record me saying it. Then she asked me for more arguments (the task was a debate that would later take place during class). My patience grew thin, but I still kept it cool.

Eventually, a sentence slipped out. One that says she actually wanted me to make all her arguments, and she’d just practice saying it for later. If only she were more perceiving, she would’ve seen the change in my expression.

Then, she asked if I could help her again the next day. I said I couldn’t since I already promised an old friend to check on another assignment (it was later on cancelled, but that’s not my point). What pissed me off was the two sentences that came next.

“Why would you help that friend of yours? Aren’t you being too nice?”

My reply: “Well, it’s my old and close friend. If I wouldn’t help her, why would I do such a crazy thing as helping you?”

The girl made an attempt to gain social pardon from me, but the damage is done. I’d rather have someone ask for a favor from me. You know, quid pro quo. Trying to be sly or sweet talk me won’t do any good to how I perceive you. In fact, it’ll probably backfire. A simple thanks is all I need.

I have a friend who’s awful at saying no. A few days ago she was slightly annoyed because she didn’t want too many kids copying her notes (and blaming her if it didn’t match the test questions). So after a kid came up and saw me holding a summary of the materials and asked if she could copy it, I pointed to my friend. She gave me a “WHY DID YOU PUT ME IN THAT POSITION!?” look. Lesson learnt—some people are too afraid of social pressure to say no. Even with me she needs to sugarcoat a subtle shake of the head with multiple apologies. That makes me uneasy. Meh.

On the other hand, yet another friend of mine (sorry, gotta protect anonymity, ha!) would gladly make me sulk a bit when she feels I’m taking too much advantage of her notes. Given, I’m disappointed at times, but not at her—it’s only because I have to do more effort to gain whatever it is I need.

In fact, I’m most comfortable with that last friend of mine. She’s quite the “no bullshit with me” kind of person. You won’t see it at first glance, and it doesn’t come out in her attitude, but in the way she deals with things and people.

Personally? My kind of person.

I really do wish people would be more direct when they ask for help or favors. It’ll save me a lot of trouble with social norms that just aren’t practical and exhaust me of what cheerful energy I managed to muster for that particular day.

Well, it’s in line with my lifetime resolution—being direct with people as long as it’s suitable. So that’s definitely something to keep in mind.

Goodness, I’m complaining again. *sighs* Well, what’s new with the world? (Or me, for that matter.)

What We Write

If you know me well enough, you’ll support this next few words: I do quite the amount of editing for my friends, both in Indonesian and English. Nothing professional, just enough to pass tasks with decent grades and please those oh-so-beloved teachers and lecturers who give a damn about language and the proper use of it.

This thought has occurred to me multiple times in the past, but it never really dawned on me until today how much of ourselves we write down, whether personal or not.

I’ve always scolded myself when I rant about something too clearly on Twitter or WordPress when I don’t want to. I’ve even taken care not to be explicit in certain parts in my own private journal. An acquaintance pointed that out a while ago, so I checked. It’s true. Some of my personal writings are ambiguous to the point that I’m not even sure what it’s about. I guess I’m that insecure about what info I give out.

But that’s about things we’re quite aware of. You probably have friends who own a private blog or an alias unknown to most people they know. But this is a whole other level.

When you’re editing tasks or writing down something in passion, you’ll find out many people don’t pay attention to trifle things like who’s going to read it or if it’s too personal. I’ve found out things about my friends from their writings I’d never guess about them. A few have hidden talent in writing, others bring out things that aren’t exactly in secret, but people just don’t notice. Once in a while, something shocking comes along.

Editing a letter informed me that a former classmate planned to go to France for college (nope, it didn’t work out). One friend had me check her essays and stories multiple times; this is how I knew she had a penchant of writing melancholic love stories. Sometimes I get a peek into their personal relationships with family members. It’s one of the perks (well, most of the time) that comes with the privilege of reading what people write.

Sometimes, I get to see these people in a new light. School tasks aren’t necessarily rigid—it can be about you, things you love, and all those mushy, wonderful things. I learn more about these people: how they think, what they go through, their personality.

What I’m trying to say from these jumpy paragraphs is we write down (and post online) more than we think. When people write, they really do pour a piece of themselves.

Thoughts: Memory Wipe

I’m sure we all know that the past contains memories, both good and bad. I’m sure we all have those days when we wish we could just make the bad ones go away. I’m sure you can all relate to this:

Right? Right? Am I right or what?

The things is, I would never want to wipe out my memories. So far, anyway. You have to take the good and bad in life. Like coffee or chocolate—bittersweet in all its glory. It’s like eating Oreos. You can lick the cream first then the biscuit, or eat the biscuit first, or taste both in a bite. Either way, if you want the whole thing, you need to eat the whole thing and taste both sides.

Same as life—to truly live, you must take the good and bad in stride. The cliché “Life is a roller-coaster ride” is a cliché because it’s true.

“But it’s only the really bad ones I want to erase! Let’s say the technology exists, I won’t wipe out all of my happy or bad memories. I won’t erase my good ones with the horrible ones!”

Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Try looking at the pic below to guess what I’ll be blabbering about next.

I don’t know about you, but I highly agree with the quote. It’s not so much about the pain, it’s about what comes after it.

Like it or not, memories help to shape who you are. Wiping the good memories will make you lose a piece of you that you are now, so does wiping out the bad ones.

And especially the bad, specific ones. Memories are based on true incidents that resonate throughout your life, sometimes in the weirdest and most wonderful ways. Sometimes through reality slaps, or déjà vu. Other times, through things that remind you of those memories.

Memories are how we learn from mistakes, because we remember how bad it felt making those mistakes. It’s the reason for our being uncomfortable in new surroundings because our brain’s grasping for familiar things we can relate to but scarcely find any, but it’s also why we find home so… homey.

I know I’m rambling here, but I do hope you understand what I mean. Whenever I pause and relive my past, it’s the bad experiences that have shaped me the most. And I do get negative effects from those bad memories, but I’m also aware that those bad memories are the ones who have shaped what I like about myself the most.

So, there.

In each century since the beginning of the world wonderful things have been discovered. In the last century more amazing things were found out than in any century before. In this century hundreds of things still more astounding will be brought to light. At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done—then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago. One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.

— The Secret Garden

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