Mostly Void, Partially Stars

“Past performance is not a predictor of future results.”

I am 90 episodes deep into the wonderfully weird podcast that is Welcome to Nightvale, which tells the tale of an American desert town that is home to a Faceless Old Woman who secretly lives in your home, a five-headed dragon, beings we cannot legally acknowledge to be Angels, and black-hooded figures that patrol the forbidden (to both people and dogs) Dog Park.

To call Nightvale weird would be an understatement, but beneath all its creepy and ominous tales, there is a sense of comedy, absurdist at times, but often strangely raw and… real. Since the strange is so normal in Nightvale, the normal as we know it is often made fun of or put in such blatant terms that we realize how weird our ‘normal’ lives actually are—and how scary in its uncertainty.

Which brings me to scariest thing in Nightvale. Not evil Glow Clouds, or soul-sucking Strangers, but “Past performance is not an indicator of future results.” If you Google the phrase, you’ll see it floating around business articles about the risks of investments. It certainly feels like a jab against the repeated use of it and how corporate they made it sound, for something that is pretty much common sense. We like to believe that our previous successes are going to translate into our future endeavors, and while it might help your chances, there are no guarantees. It’s almost become a running joke in the show, the repeated use of this saying, often in out of place ways.

Out of curiosity, I went through the transcripts of all the episodes (there’s 111 as of this writing) and a quick search shows that it’s only said in a handful of episodes. Considering that the show posts episodes only twice a month, for regular listeners it would be months, maybe even a year before the phrase pops up again. But for me, every time Cecil says “Past performance is not a predictor of future results” is like a slap in the face.

For some reason, it sticks out to me.

Often, Cecil says it after a new unexplainable thing is revealed or something horrible and foreboding just happened, in an effort to be optimistic. Just because things ended up badly before, doesn’t mean that the future is certain to turn out poorly. Past performance is not a predictor of future results.

However, I internalized the phrase differently. I even misremembered it as “Past performance is not an indicator of future success,” which I think says a lot about me, the emphasis on success. Another way you could interpret the phrase is that, how you performed or succeeded before has no bearing on what is going to happen in the future. Which, of course to me, is terrifying, because it seems like everything I do is ultimately futile and everything is really a haphazard roll of the dice. Any success I do have is a fluke that can be chalked up to mere chance.

There’s a lot to be said about being prepared. You are more likely to succeed, if you make sure you are ready to seize any opportunities that do happen to come your way (more in another post, perhaps?). But the fact remains, that there are so many external factors that are outside of your control. There will be times where you give and give and give, every ounce of effort and prepare for every minute detail—only to fail. Not for a lack of trying, but for a lack of fortune.

Which sucks, of course. But it’s also inevitable.

This has been a very long segue into me talking about how out of control I feel like in my life right now. I’ve been in San Diego living with my brother for two months now, and while I do have an internship that involves getting paid to write, it’s been not very exciting. I’ve essentially been suspended in a state of limbo, being in a place where I know I’m not going to stay in for the long run, excited about the next step but also wondering what it is, because it all depends on a certain chain of events happening just the way I want it to. And, of course, reality is not so accommodating.

So, I am very much going with the flow (which right now, seems to be pointing the rivers back home to Indonesia). Which is fine, honestly. There was the slight fear of oh no I’m back where I started before I went on my gap year, this whole thing has been a waste and I have nothing to show for it, which quickly went away once I took a few moments to get over myself.

Past performance is not an indicator of future results, after all.

Not everything has to be a goddamn metaphor, and me going home doesn’t have to mean starting back at square one. In fact, I’ve talked myself into being excited to go home. We moved into a pretty nice house a while back, and I never got to spend much time in it. Staying there for a bit long term means, I’ll have my own bed, my own room, a yoga mat to get back to doing yoga/pilates again, a piano I can practice on to my heart’s content, a spacious kitchen I can take advantage of to learn how to cook/bake. Possibilities are endless!

Slight frustration though: I’ve been thinking about what it means to “settle down” and set up roots. Not necessarily in a get-married-and-have-kids sort of way. My life has been built around moving from place to place, and there’s a certain comfort to staying in one place for a long time that I will never really have.

Building a foundation takes time. By being in one place indefinitely and being surrounded by the same people who get to see you change and grow, it makes past performance is not an indicator of future results become a more sentimental… sentiment. It’s the people who have you seen your past that have more to say about your future, usually along the lines of I know you and I know what you can do. I’ve seen itAnd I know you have what it takes to do it again. If you don’t have those people in your life, it’s hard to feel like you’ve really grown, because no one is there to really remind you of how much you’ve changed.

In terms of friends, it’s complicated. For me to have to put myself out there all over again every time I find myself somewhere new and be a different person with every batch of friends that I make. Not that I’m playacting, or pretending to be someone that I’m not. I’m an amalgamation of my experiences, a product of the things that have happened to me. When you meet me for the first time, you’re meeting a specific version of me who at that point in time is an updated version of the person I was—older, wiser, and (on good days) a better human being.

Not everyone sees how I got to that point, and of course, with time, I could let you in on the messier parts of me and my journey. But that rapport-building is nearly impossible, or becomes simply incomplete when we’re not interacting long enough for it to happen. It’s hard to believe that people are accepting of who you are, when the picture they have of you is served piece-meal. It would be nice to have someone who has seen it all—and after all this time, chooses to stick around anyway.

It’s the same thing with jobs or trying to perform. Taking a new job means essentially starting from zero—you have to navigate a new space, new people, new dynamics. You have to prove yourself all over again, build that rapport so that people have an actual past performance that they can witness and use to make predictions of your future. Things are just easier when people give the benefit of the doubt because you’ve already proven your capabilities and worth. Seniority has its perks.

TL:DR: My life has no consistency. It’s like nothing carries over, and the past is, well, past and it doesn’t matter as much any more. Every next step is a vicious cycle of starting over, putting in effort for the time being that will essentially mean nothing once you reach the next step. And without a past performance to base my present, or the future on, what foundation do I have to make sense of myself?

The answer, to that, can also be found in the weird and wonderful podcast that prompted the question in the first place. In the words of Nightvale Community Radio host, Cecil Palmer:

We understand the lights. We understand the lights above the Arby’s. We understand so much.

But the sky behind those lights—mostly void, partially starsThat sky reminds us we don’t understand even more.

—Welcome to Nightvale, ep. 25, “One Year Later”

Life is full of uncertainty. No matter which way you slice it, there will always be things that are out of your control. And while you can take past performance is not a predictor of future results to mean that all your efforts are an endlessly futile struggle, there are moments, rare moments, in between the massive void, that just… make sense. And they make you think that maybe, just maybe, the effort is worth it after all.

I mean, isn’t the void exactly why stars look so breathtaking in the first place?

—Karin Novelia, Stargazing into the Void

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Empty

I spend a lot of time, trying to fill myself up with things I think will make me feel whole. The problem is, in my search of identity and belonging, I’m starting to feel like I am limiting myself. It is what I want, yet at the same time, I rebel against the idea. I don’t want to be limited.
I’m starting to believe that my search for stability and identity is futile. I’ve lived in the chaos far too long to be comfortable with anything else. And in a way, I’m grateful. My live is messy, sure, and makes no sense. But it’s eye-opening in it’s uncertainty, and made me think about a lot of things I probably never would’ve considered if my life was a bit more… ‘normal’.
When I see myself living the life I dream of, I see myself wandering and flitting from one place to another, opening myself up to the world and what it has to offer as I explore and deepen my understanding of it. But in order to do that, I need to be empty. I need to be neutral, an empty vessel, people can pour a piece of themselves into. I need to be an nonthreatening outsider who simply wants to observe and passively experience the lives of others, listen to their stories, be a part of their world without affecting it.
I want to be everything and nothing at once. 
Which makes sense, considering how empty I’ve become.
Here’s to trying to fill myself up.
–Karin Novelia, idk.

Starting Over

Hello, reader.
It’s been a while. Been too long really.
In case you’re not up to date with my messy life, I recently moved to the United States (wut). And a lot of things have happened in the span of 2 and a half months. I don’t even know where to begin.
Long story short, I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about what has happened to me lately, and well what has happened in my life in general. And maybe it’s time that I sort through them and hopefully at the end of it, emerge as a somewhat more well-adjusted and functional human being. 
‘Cuz let’s be honest adulting is hard. Being a person is hard.
And if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that I need to stop half-assing all attempts at life.
So here’s hoping that this little post is a push in the right direction.
Thanks for reading.
–Karin Novelia, i have no idea what i’m doing but i’m doing it anyway

Different Worlds

If you’ve seen the movie Interstellar, you would be well aware of how different planets can be completely different worlds. Each planet has it’s unique topology and atmosphere. Even it’s own gravity. And gravity is pretty powerful, mysterious force.
 
Basically, the force of gravity that acts upon a planet affects the speed at which it turns and orbits in space. And there’s this theory, which is Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and this theory basically explains how things seem to move differently according to where you are or where you’re observing something. This results in the ‘time jumps’ often ascribed to interstellar travel. An hour spent on one planet can equal to 7 years on Earth.
 
Science jargon aside, I can’t help but use this to help me describe how I feel about being back home. Singapore and Jakarta really do feel like different worlds.
 
In Singapore, life seemed to move a bit more faster. Actually, a whole lot faster. I felt like I always had something to do, and so little time to do it, even on the weekends when I should, by right, not have much on my plate.
 
In Jakarta, time seems to slow down. It slows down to the point that I trick myself into thinking that I have all the time in the world to do the things that I want to do, and I end up ‘procrastinating’. I put those quote marks because I guess you can’t really procrastinate on things that can’t be classified as work. Relaxing, can’t be classified as ‘work’.
 
I never saw Jakarta as ‘my home planet’. It was always more like a rest stop. A stepping stone. I can’t believe I’m saying this but Singapore is more my speed. I have the freedom to do what I want, and I don’t have to worry about transportation, I can get to places on my own. And it feels nice, though I guess the price of that independence is you end up taking larger bites than you can normally chew.
 
Anyways, it’s the last day of November. For now, I am figuring out how to make the best out of 2014, before it ends. December feels like it’s going to be a big month. Lots of travelling, lot of adventures, and hopefully a lot of personal growth and self-improvement too.
 
Yeah, hopefully my ambitions come to fruition this time.
 
Cheers!
 
–Karin Novelia, Feeling A Bit Alien

Defaults

What do you do when your heart feels like it’s too big for your chest? Is there any way to cut it open and tear it out, at least to lighten up the load by letting it bleed out?
I came across a book. It’s called Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I was expecting it to be good, but definitely wasn’t expecting this. I wasn’t expecting to read myself on paper. I wasn’t expecting to be confronted with some of my most inner thoughts, ones that I pushed aside with good reason. I was expecting feels, but not like this. Not the bad kind.
It’s a bit scary when a book reminds you of yourself so much. It forces you to think about things you’d otherwise ignore, to look deep inside yourself.
“Why do we write fiction?”
To disappear. 
The good thing about fictional writing is that they are fictional for a reason. They don’t mirror real life. Or at least, they don’t mirror your own life. A good relatable story is like an alternative universe. A different pathway of what ifs and could’ve beens that your life might have taken, but didn’t. In a way, it’s fun. You get to experience all that shit without actually experiencing it.
And then you catch yourself wishing you actually did experience it. Even the bad. You start wishing for the bad. What’s worse is when you start wishing you could be a certain character. Especially the ones that seemingly contradict your own nature, contradict your default state.
I like to say that being a bitch is my default. And I say it like it’s true. And I kind of believe it is. But I also wish I didn’t. Because it’s not true. Not really.
I realized being a bitch isn’t my default. Or at least it didn’t start out that way. A lot of my life, most of my childhood and my early teenage years are a bit of a blur. Possibly because I blocked out most memories. Or rather, they weren’t really memorable to begin with.
I hate the fact that nothing really interesting happens to me. Even if some drama comes my way, I can never be 100% sure that it wasn’t all a story I made up in my head. In a way, the story of my life has pretty much been written in stone. I am the good girl. The one who chooses to stay in her room than go out with friends. Who would rather live in a fictional world than a real one. The girl who works hard and will probably end up in a steady, if not dull, career. Live a pretty normal life. Have her shit together.
That’s the story I see written out for me. And I don’t like it one bit.
So I’ve taken the pages and put them through the shredder. Sure, I won’t deny that I tend to retreat into myself. Rather than act out, I act in. I am reserved, calm. Yes, shy. But I refuse to let that hold me back. I refuse to let that be all I am. And so instead of having ‘goody-two shoes’ as a default, I rewrote it to ‘bitch’.
Because I want to be that girl. The girl who carries herself with confidence and fakes coolness with ease. The girl who can walk into a room and make heads turn. The girl who can flitter around a room, make small talk and mingle. The girl who doesn’t care about what people say. A ‘bitch’, in a sense. Is it unhealthy, wishing for this? No. Not if it pushes me to be a better person.
And I do want this. So badly. I want to be able to decide that I want to go to a party or a hangout or just go out and be social, and not have to worry about withdrawing so much into myself that I feel like I’m about to have a panic attack. I want to be able to be confident enough to say what’s on my mind without worrying if I sound stupid or crazy.
I want to go to parties and stay up late with my friends and go on spontaneous trips abroad. I want to all the things that “people like me” normally wouldn’t do, because I want to do them. And maybe that’s the part of me that doesn’t make me quite like those “people like me”. I genuinely want to experience life.
I want to be unapologetically enthusiastic about life. I want to be a nerd. And not just behind closed doors.
And I can’t do that if I keep on being a ‘good girl’, all safe and cozy in the comfort of her own bedroom.
I’m wearing a pair of goody-two shoes and these, dear readers, are my ruby slippers. They pinch my toes and move my legs against my will, and I can never take them off. Not unless I chop my legs off. And I see myself doing so in the future. Repeatedly.
No. Actually, I am doing it now. Taking a chainsaw to those damned shoes, and slipping on a pair of high-heeled stilettos instead. My Dad said I am too social. I laughed for ages afterwards. Because he doesn’t know how anti-social I really am. But in light of recent times, even I must admit that I am being really social lately. I am putting an effort to go out and meet people, even though it feels unnatural, against my so-called ‘default’.
Perhaps, I will never be able to rewrite my default again. Being nice to people, even begrudgingly, is in my nature. My Mom always says that I’m “too nice” for my own good. That doesn’t stop me though now, does it? And being a bitch is sort of wired into my DNA now too. When you try so hard to rebel against yourself, it does tend to come off the wrong way. And it sticks.
But I think I can do this. Develop the ability to be outgoing and ‘extroverted’ (I kind of dislike using that word — ‘introverted’ too). And even if I never truly acquire it, at least I can learn how to fake it. All the way.
I don’t know how to end this post.
Let’s just say I am… feeling ambitious lately.
Cheers.
–Karin Novelia, Rebelling Against Herself

Things I Am Grateful For

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is a list of things I am grateful for:

  1. My best bud Ben and all the highness that comes with him.
  2. The past 2 years of my life as a Secondary Student in Singapore, which has made me a better person.
  3. Ice cream.
  4. Pizza.
  5. All my wonderful scholar peeps and the epic moments we shared.
  6. That my family can finally afford a new house (old one’s getting a bit cramped).
  7. My parents, who may not always get me, but I know will always support me.
  8. My little sister, who keeps me young.
  9. My big brother, who reminds me that I am never alone.
  10. Phoebe (who I am surprisingly missing so much rn) for making school life a little less boring
  11. Bastille, for always making good music.
  12. Lorde, for reminding me that even the most reserved people can put themselves out there and succeed.
  13. John Green, for writing my favorite books that remind me that even people older than you were teenagers, once upon a time.
  14. Someone who showed me that even though things between us will never go back to the way things used to be, the moments we shared left a mark, and will always be treasured heartfelt moments, regardless of whether or not we remain in each other’s lives.
  15. Sushi.
  16. Cereal. All the types of cereal.
  17. Finally having friends who give enough of a shit about me to throw me birthday surprises.
  18. Connor Franta and all other Youtubers who make me smile, and inspire me to go after my own dreams.
  19. A certain someone, for teaching me that sometimes people will just not understand you. And that’s okay.
  20. Another certain someone who always believed the best in me, even when I was at my worst.
  21. Taylor Swift for being Queen, making the best music, and for showing me that the haters really shouldn’t matter
  22. Learning that moving on from something (or someone) means not just being able to push all the feelings aside and forgetting about it. You need to accept it and reconcile with the fact that whatever it is your missing is gone, or will never happen, and you need to move on sincerely, not grudgingly.
  23. And finally, I am thankful for me being able to still be a better person, even after getting hurt along the way.

Ah, ended on my dear friend, number 23. Perhaps not the most coherent list, but I like the way this just flowed out. 2014 has definitely been one for the history books, and I just can’t believe the year is nearly over. 2014 was huge improvement from 2013, and let’s hope that even better things are in store for me in the year 2015.

Meanwhile, while 2014 is still alive and kicking, I am going to make the best of this holiday and have lots of fun with it. You have my word on that 🙂

Cheers!

–Karin Novelia, Grateful for A Lot of Things (Good and Bad)

Never Enough

If you’re new to this blog, then one simple fact that you should know about me is that I am the type of person who wants a lot out of life. And I mean, a lot.

Growing up, whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never had one solid answer. In my mind, I had this entire list of things I wanted to at least experience, at least try. Once I joined my school’s dance crew in primary school, I started having these dreams of becoming a dancer. Once I started getting into reading fiction, I had these ideas of becoming a writer. I am starting to see that I am easily impressionable, at least when it comes to the positive (slightly glamourized?) side of things. If you show me how something, like a career path, can be fulfilling and gratifying in it’s own way, then I might be persuaded to consider it.

Perhaps it is both a blessing and a curse, having this urge to do so much with your life that you become driven to go out there and go after your dreams. But it is also terrifying.
Newton’s First Law of Motion goes a little something like this: an object at rest will remain at rest, and an object in motion will continue to move at a constant speed in a straight line. This is otherwise known as Law of Inertia — the reluctance of something to change it’s state of motion.
I am a person who has a lot of metaphorical inertia. When I start to slow down and lose interest in something, even for the briefest of moments, I find it a bit hard to get the engine started again. I have been there, at a point where things just felt pointless and meaningless and so I just stopped trying. But when I did find the urge to try again, I realized that I was emotionally and mentally stuck.
This is a state I try very hard to avoid. I do things to distract myself from those crippling emotions, even when they just creep up ever so slightly. I have been doing a good job of maintaining a decent amount of energy and highness lately, but… average levels are starting to feel insufficient.
I have always been wary of my expectations, and I spend quite a lot of time trying to moderate them, toning them down to save myself from disappointment. And that works, to a degree. But I’m starting to wonder if tempering my expectations is preventing me from reaching higher standards.
The other side of this inertia problem, is that once I get going, it find it very hard to stop. And contrary to what Newton believed, I don’t move at a constant speed. I move at a constant acceleration, at with every little victory and accomplishment, I will always be left wanting more and I guess I’m just afraid that nothing will ever be enough. So I deny myself even the idea of more, because on the off chance that I actually do achieve more I don’t want to risk my ego and my desire going out of control.
This fear, though reasonable, is also a bit irrational. Why the hell am I playing martyr and denying myself the very things I want out of life? Life is scary, life is tricky and life is definitely not easy. But being afraid and worrying about things, doesn’t help either.
Feelings of fear and inadequacy aside, if I’m going to really start being the best me I can be, I need to be smart about it. I do have a tendency to spread myself thin, and though juggling so many things can be stressful and demanding, I actually believe that I can handle it. But being willing to take on so much and dedicating so much of your time to things that can classified as ‘work’ also means killing some of your darlings and sacrificing a lot of your ‘me’ time. I guess before I can take the next step, I need to decide how much I’m willing to give up in order to start meeting those ‘high’ standards of mine.
A lot of successful people are where they are now because they put in the time and the effort to do what was necessary, they put in the work and the practice to be masters at their craft and take advantage of their opportunities. That’s a notion that gives me hope and motivation to actually go for this, but then I also realize that most of these people only really focus on one thing, that one thing that they are naturally good at. And I can’t bring myself to choose just one thing.
And maybe I don’t have to. At least, not yet.
It’s unsettling. For a while now — perhaps for far too long — I have felt suffocated by my own indifference and apathy. And here we are, at the other side, and I don’t know if this is better. Feeling dwarfed by the sheer enormity of my own ambitions.
Thinking about the future, I’ve decided not to quantify my life and see its value solely on the number of achievements I manage to attain. Instead I want to look back on my life and see the value of the richness of my experiences, good and even bad.
I used to think that being happy was the goal in life, y’know? The one goal I need to achieve to not die with any regrets. I think I need a little bit more than that. Happiness is good, but something about the concept also seems fleeting. What I need to search for is some peace of mind.
The path to reach that point, will be littered with obstacles. It will be an uphill battle, and maybe the only way to get some peace of mind isn’t to realize all the dreams I have in my head. What I need to do is to at least try.
Who knows how this will turn out. By the time I find out, it will be too late to do anything about it.
Maybe this’ll work.
Or maybe….
This’ll never be enough.
–Karin Novelia, Having Enough With Being Stuck