How self-portraits helped me live.

I am not too fond of my own face, despite what my selfie folder might lead you to think. I like it enough in some flattering angles, but I won’t drown myself just to get a closer look of my own reflection.

I am also by no means a talented artist. I have long struggled with my drawing abilities, whether it’s for landscape, still life or portraits. I would love to achieve a higher degree of accuracy or realism, but alas I fail even at maintaining the consistency between the left part and right part of a drawing. Fortunately, after years of loathing the results of my doodles and scribbles, I have begun to make peace with my limitations. A realist painter I will never be, but at least I no longer cringe at my failed attempts to draw.

In the spirit of incremental progress in fine motor skills, triggered by my recent obsession with fountain pens, I am embarking to further enhance my drawing skills by drawing self-portraits, or at last some interpretation of a self-portrait. The initial reasoning was practicality, my face is a readily accessible reference, and I won’t have to deal with guilt of poorly drawing someone else’s face. It’s my face to mess up.

At first it was really awkward and uncomfortable, the whole process forced me to stare at my own face for long periods of time and scrutinize details about myself. I am forced to accept the fact that I am permanently scarred in certain areas. I am forced to admit that my cheek bone and jaw structure combination will always make me look rounded, which is probably why my late father called me “Bunder” (round). I am forced to admit that I have definitely gained weight, as demonstrated by my cheeks and chin, or should I say chins.

I have developed a tendency, recently, to draw or doodle as I listen to podcasts. What started as an attempt to draw a depiction of my face in a natural and realistic style evolved to doodles, surrealist scribbles, and other styles I have no idea of a label for. Gradually I sense changes, I dare say progress, in the results.

No, the results in terms of performance as a graphic artist are still very far from objectively satisfying. I still have problems with consistency, ever so often I draw myself with eyebrows of unequal height, as if I’m perpetually trying to do an impression of The Rock. The progress I found was in self-acceptance. I do believe that I have adjusted well enough to function as a mature adult in society, but I am still a human being, with all the insecurities that comes with being one. All those minutes spent looking at my own reflection or photograph had served as a period of, well, self-reflection.

As I make strokes to depict the perennial scowl line on my forehead, I made peace with the fact that I have worried so much in my life I need to relearn to how to live. I have yet been able to transfer the details of my face, but staring at the micro craters on my cheeks have lead me to accept that they will be there forever. No longer will I stroke my own cheeks and feel its smoothness as I did as a child.

No, I don’t feel ugly, despite having drawn myself from unflattering angles. Neither do I feel any more attractive than I have felt all along. I am me, with some room for development here and there, and further peace to be made with myself. I am a broken, beaten, persevering soul trapped in this shell of an aging body, and I have made steps to make the ride even more enjoyable for whatever period is left with every single second I spend looking at my own face as I try to project them to other media.

I probably won’t ever produce a satisfying facsimile of my face on a piece of paper, but I am getting closer, incrementally. I probably won’t ever be satisfied with myself, but I hope I will make peace with my limitations.

Indonesia Musings

Lifetime Greeting Cards will either make you laugh or question your emotional health.

I first encountered these greetings cards while browsing through a book store back in high school. Like any typical teenager, I was struggling with personal insecurities, teetering between the urge to express and the fear of embarrassment. Admittedly, these cards resonated with adolescent-me, they were hard-copy expressions of things I would really like to say to some people.

Many years later I stumbled upon these cards as an adult and realized how tacky they are. The graphics left much to be desired and the contents of the cards baffled me. I decided to buy one of each to show to my friends and maybe one day post a blog about it for giggles. Being the procrastinator that I am, it took many years before I finally photographed and uploaded them with the intention of blogging.

Frankly I had envisioned a different direction when I drafted this post in my head. I had planned on mocking the very existence of these cards, portraying them as cringe-inducing evidence of how lame some Indonesians are. Some people perceive Indonesians’ fixation on dramatically expressed feelings and their propensity to be mushy as a sign of weakness. So you got your heart broken, quit whining and get over it. Self-respecting adults would not find these cards acceptable, I thought.

Some cards left me wondering “why would anyone in their right mind risk humiliating themselves with such blunt expression of their insecurities?” Others left me feeling sorry for potential recipients for they hit too close to home. Nonetheless I realized that similar things have been expressed in various contemporary forms, just look at the anonymous secrets people submit on Whisper and the passive aggressive gif and memes getting reblogged over Tumblr. Thanks to social media people are now more comfortable in expressing their vulnerabilities. Although they might not express their hurt through greeting cards, you can easily find messages in the same vein when you scroll through cryptic Facebook statuses.

If I were to be honest with myself, mature-me still resonate with the messages that the cards carry, I may have mastered the rules of acceptable behavior and expression, but that does not negate the fact that I sometimes feel as hurt/insecure/jealous as my teenage self. I might not be bothered by minor annoyances, but when the occasion does arise, well yes I still wish I can send someone a card that bluntly asks “am I not good enough for you?” I might be able to live with rejection, but that doesn’t mean I’m not curious about why I was rejected, be it by a romantic interest or from a certain position that I covet.

Nowadays such raw expressions can only happen when my inhibitions are lowered. Blame the painkillers/alcohol/lack of sleep for my outburst, God forbid I ask honest questions when I’m sober. I have come to the conclusion that mature people who see themselves sending these cards are either courageously putting themselves in a vulnerable position for sake of being straightforward or are desperately seeking for attention. I have the utmost respect for the former and suffer annoyance from the later.

These unique greeting cards are published by a company called Lifetime cards, there  were no website listed, only an email contact at which I’m not sure is still active, I’ll try to email and post an update. Their tagline is emotion and feelings and I must admit it really does show. The contents of these greeting cards do distinctly express feelings and emotions, in a very straightforward manner. Below are 9 specimens that I managed to acquire, each specimen is presented as a composite of two images. The image on the left is the cover of the cards while the image on the right side is the contents inside:

Specimen 1

talking to a wall
might be a sign of unrequited love, if you ask me (c)Lifetime cards














Specimen 2

special to me
I’m guessing they meant to ask whether the sentiment is mutual (c)Lifetime Cards














Specimen 3

Grammatically incorrect but we get it, we get it. (c) Lifetime Cards














Specimen 4

I don’t even know that to say (c) Lifetime Cards














Specimen 5

*ba-dum tss* welcome to the friend zone, I’m your mayor Ross Geller (c) Lifetime Cards














Specimen 6

You can’t really blame them you know, you can’t force love (c) Lifetime Cards














Specimen 7

Personally I won’t dare to ever ask this question, cause I’m afraid of the answer. (c) Lifetime Cards














Specimen 8

Ever heard of a break-up card? it’s better than a post-it (c)Lifetime Cards














Specimen 9

This one is applicable not only in romantic relationships but just about any relationship, IMHO. (c)Lifetime Cards















Let me know what you guys think in the comments below.

living-learning Musings

The secret to everything in life: Quality Ingredient

I have just recently begun learning to cook, and I am bad at cooking. My technique is sloppy (overcooked most of the time), I tend to mess up seasonings (either bland or too salty), and my biggest cause of failure actually lies on my “creativity”. One such example goes, a soup was going alright, until I decided to make it a “fusion” and added last minute ingredients. Good thing I’m not too picky when it comes to eating, I’d rather eat my own bad cooking than starve. 

But I won’t lie that there is a way to increase the chance of producing good food, the cheat lies in using good quality ingredients. The picture above shows how good and appetizing a salad can be as long as you use the best ingredients. The methods and seasonings were minimal and simple, but the results far exceeds the efforts given. 

The same goes for other kinds of productive activities , it’s easier to make something good if you use good quality talents. A compact team of dedicated experts can create better results than a large group filled with people who think they know what they’re doing. It’s easier to have a good time if you are surrounded by great people who discuss about potential ideas instead of talking about other people behind their backs to compensate for their own insecurities.  

Admittedly, most of the time the option to control who we work or surround ourselves with are out of our hands, there is not much we can do about it. Real life is not a fully-stocked supermarket where we can always  pick and choose the best options, the resemblance is closer to a convenience store at 1 am when you’re hungry and desperate for food. You try to choose from the available options and make the best out of them.