15 things I love

I just watched this wonderful video by Hank Green talking about 15 things he really loves. He also spoke about how it was surprisingly hard to come up with, and despite being a generally authentic and honest person, he felt self-conscious about sharing those feelings. I just wanted to take a quick crack at it myself. (And also use this amazing mechanical keyboard that Bethwyn and I just bought. It’s like sex all over your fingertips all the time.)

  1. Using this mechanical keyboard. Again, the sexings, all over the fingers.
  2. Seeing an old couple hold hands in public.
  3. Seeing a gay couple hold hands in public.
  4. Getting the essence of a martial art technique and then just nailing it.
  5. Running so free that it feels like I’m cutting through the air and that I can go forever and nothing can hold me back.
  6. Helping someone smile by doing something kind for them.
  7. Cuddling in a warm bed on a cold morning.
  8. Having someone trust me enough to open up to me and be vulnerable and maybe scared by oh so authentic, and then me saying to them “It’s okay, I hear your fear, I see your vulnerability, and I think you’re okay. I love you.”
  9. At the end of Inheritance where all the loose ends are tied up over like 130 pages of dénouement.
  10. Constructing a really clever or eloquent sentence, or many such sentences, and then sharing them with other people.
  11. Good food in good company.
  12. Laughing at the top of my voice because I’m so happy I have to let the joy out.
  13. Forgiving someone who has done me wrong. That shit’s cathartic.
  14. Doing something (meditation, affirmations, mindfulness) that reminds me there is a deep well of peace within me that I can access at any time.
  15. Sharing my heartsong with people who don’t mind me singing.
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Shorn

That’s a bit of a cheeky title. I didn’t cry, as I expected I would. In fact a little part of me feels like I’m blowing things out of proportion. But a big part of me is still aware that I gave up something I had spent years lovingly crafting. (So loving it bordered on creepy. Every time I found one of my silver hairs had been pulled out, I said goodbye to it. More often than not I named it and thanked it for its service. Balthazar was the last to go.)

The hairdresser I found wasn’t super experienced cutting off hair for donation, but I talked her through it step by step and she was very happy to oblige. She did an excellent job styling my hair afterwards, although I still surprise myself in the mirror. To be honest, I barely notice that it’s gone. Certainly my head is a little lighter, but for the most part I don’t feel any different. Lots of little things keep reminding me of the change; the rustle as my short, sharp bristles rub against the headrest of the car; the feeling of wind on the back of my neck; my reflexive action to pull my hair free after I put on a shirt or pull a bag strap over my shoulder. It’s pretty relieving to be able to turn my head at night rather than having it trapped by my snagged mane. And I guess it’s exciting to be able to style my hair in different ways, but…

It just feels like a step back, y’know? I look in the mirror and I see myself as I looked three years ago. I remember looking like this. And I don’t like looking “the way I used to”. I liked looking like the way I wanted to look, brave and adventurous and defiant like a glorious pirate captain.

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Anyway, here are the photos of my haircut. I’m curious to see what my first shower will be like, shampooing and then not having to blowdry it. Although many of my friends have complimented me on my new look, I think the final picture sums up my own opinion perfectly.

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As Bethwyn points out, I’m putting on a Poutface

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It took her upwards of a dozen cuts to get through each ponytail.

It took her upwards of a dozen cuts to get through each ponytail.

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Shortly after this picture was taken I nuzzled the ponytail in disbelief.

So much hair! The hairdresser was amazed at its thickness and condition. I hope it is well-used.

So much hair! The hairdresser was amazed at its thickness and condition. I hope it is well-used.

Words fail to describe my mixed feelings about my new look. I feel both happy and sad at once.

Words fail to describe the mixed feelings I have about my new look.

Note to self

Dear Xin,

I know you’ve been having some bad days since you left your job. That’s a pretty reasonable response to what happened, considering your expectations that you’d be there for a long time, and that you’d be able to use the car for a long time etc. It’s a shitty thing that happened.

Don’t beat yourself up for having anxious days my friend. They’re totally understandable. And stop beating yourself up for not looking at other work yet – I know how hard it is to imagine a positive future when you’re stuck in an anxious mind-set. Rather than focussing on surviving your wave of anxiety, instead take a moment to breathe and then centre yourself. I know you don’t always realise when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, but when you do, be mindful of where you are and all the beautiful things happening around you. You don’t have to just weather the storm, you can be an active agent in it, drawing yourself back to the ground and going for a stroll in the sunshine. Focus on what makes you happy and well, and everything else will fall into place. And not just movies and books and stuff, but things that genuinely light up your life, like serving other people and playing the piano.

You can’t always snap yourself out of an anxious wave, and that’s okay. You don’t have any control over when and how the feelings come into you. But you can choose what to do when they’re there.

Love,

Xin

Samson’s Mane Bane

Two and a half years ago, I decided I would fulfil my dream of growing out my hair. I had always loved the idea of having a mane, and I have always had a great fondness for characters and people with long hair. In my heart I cherished the aspiration that I might have Ujio-level hair some day.

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For two and a half years, I weathered the pleas and insults of my family, and occasionally my friends, to live out my dream. My father often told me that I looked like a poor beggar boy who couldn’t afford a haircut, and he frequently regaled me with the tale of his friend who got a job in the army for the sole reason of possessing a smart haircut. My brother always held a great disdain for my hair-growing efforts, and to this day he cannot wait for me to cut it. My mother was less violently opposed to my dream, and while she certainly didn’t like it, she was willing to support me in what she might refer to as my experimental stage. Once, to appease my unhappy family, I went to a hairdresser and asked for advice on how to grow a ponytail. She told me “If you want long hair, just let it grow”, and I left her with my thanks. When I went home that day I told my family I’d been to the hairdresser’s, and that simple fact caused them to gush with elation, telling me how well my hair had been styled and how good it looked now that it had some form and shape to it. I could not bring myself to inform them I hadn’t actually had it cut.

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My plan was simple:
Step 1) Grow hair.
Step 2) Focus on Step 1.

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I was worried it would look weird all being the same length, but I couldn’t bring myself to have it cut, not even an inch, in an attempt to style it. I asked a long-haired friend what shampoo he used, and I went out and bought Pantene. Along the way a friend mentioned using leave-in conditioner, and I feverishly acquired some for myself. On a frenzy of hair treatment, I talked to another hairdresser and spent over $100 on shampoo, conditioner, some kind of “smoothing lusteriser”, and then came back later for a leave-in oil treatment. I asked about how to use my hairdryer, and I would have stopped using it entirely if my hair didn’t take literally 6 hours to dry by air.

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The first time I could bunch the hair at the nape of my neck and put a hairtie around it was a glorious day for me. Another worthy milestone was the moment when my hair was long enough to tuck behind my ear and have it stay there for more than a moment. I was overjoyed the day I realised that when I turned my head fast enough, my ponytail would flick around and brush my neck. And it was a strange and wondrous day when I realised that the tickling on my back and shoulders was from the hair flowing down my neck. The day when I could pull all my hair back into a ponytail (without the need of bobby pins) fulfilled many of my fantasies (though it pained me to see all the hairs I broke in the process). And finally I reached the point where I could have a side-part to show off my silver streak and still have hair long enough to pull into a low ponytail (that wouldn’t get in the way while driving, or get messed up when lying on my back).

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My long hair, while glorious, has not been without its problems. It was an exercise in patience to get it past the point where it curled hideously at the shoulders. Worse, it fell upon my face if not checked, and individual strands stabbed me in the eyes with surprising sharpness. In the wind it blew into my mouth and whipped all over the place. Moreover, such is the thickness and robustness of my hair that it could not be withheld by my ears alone, and so any time it wasn’t tied back, the simple act of leaning forwards would cause it to fall about me. Thus I found it covered with all manner of crumbs and custard, toothpaste, soapy water and worse. Perhaps most annoying of all was the time it took to wash, treat and dry. My showers went from being two minute affairs to forty-five minute commitments, which after a long day of work and training I just couldn’t bear. (Thus in recent months I have gone several, sweaty, oily days between washes.) And as my martial arts friends are keen to remind me, it has proved very frustrating in randori, getting pulled while grappling or loosed while sparring. Somehow it seems to be an inevitability when fighting one senpai in particular, and well do I remember the black curtain descending over my vision and the consequent pain as I blindly tried to fend off his relentless strikes. Even when only some of it comes free, the moment it takes to sweep it back is enough of an occupation to create an opening in my defence which has been well-capitalised.

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Thus, when all my satisfactions are weighed against all my grievances, I have resolved that it is time to have my hair cut. To be completely honest, I have fulfilled all the reasons I had in growing my hair in the first place. That itch, so to speak, has been thoroughly scratched. But it seemed like such a tragedy to cut and throw out hair as strong and healthy as mine – in these two and half years I have not yet seen a split end. It was Bethwyn who found the solution I was yearning for: to donate my hair to someone who had none of their own.

My initial search proved to uncover many organisations who catered to such a cause, and I decided on the biggest hoping it would be the most public and therefore ethical. My friends drew my attention to the mistake I was making; Locks of Love turned out to be profit-based and not as helpful to families as their website would have lead me to believe. Thus I spent hours scouring the internet to find reputable organisations (most of which are in the US). After much research, I have decided on Wigs For Kids, for their small team, the apparent quality of the wigs they produce, and the consequently large amounts of time and hair that are required to manufacture them by hand. They seem transparent about how my hair will be used, and seem to spend their funds well. All that remains is to find a hairdresser (the first I’ll attend in several years) and to let myself be sheared.

It’s been quite a journey, and my only regret is not growing it long enough to feel it brush against the small of my back. Still, I am not willing to wait another two years to experience this sensation, and I think it’s time to let my dream go. Photos of my haircut and new look to come soon, I’m sure. [Edit: Pictures here.]

I'll miss you, glorious hair.

I’ll miss you, glorious hair.