this cruel world was not made for a soul like you


The K-pop world was shook this week in the worst possible way, when popular boy group SHINee’s lead vocalist Kim Jonghyun killed himself via carbon monoxide poisoning.

The 27-year-old singer-songwriter had been depressed for ages and sought help repeatedly before eventually deciding to take his own life.

I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the group in particular, but I do appreciate their contributions to K-pop and the entertainment industry. They were hilarious on Korea’s SNL, and their songs are super catchy. The boys always seem so humble and hardworking, and so friendly and kind to their fans. Their strong bond was also undeniable.

It’s heartbreaking to know that that someone who brought so much warmth and support to others had been in so much pain deep inside. Jonghyun had been an empathetic, deeply emotional soul who poured his heart out into his music. But in the end, the cry for help in his songs went unheard.

The worst thing is, this all could have been prevented. Depression can be cured, with patience, the right sort of counselling, proper medication and treatment, and lots of love and support.

Jonghyun was widely loved by friends, colleagues, and fans all over the world. He was loved by his mother, his sister, and his group-mates, who were like brothers to him. Everyone close to him was aware he was battling depression, but often we don’t realise just how bad it is. It’s not like a depressed person would go around telling everyone how miserable he is all the time, and especially not a celebrity who has to smile at cameras all the time.

As someone who has been through that downward spiral before, I know how dark it can be in the deepest recesses of our minds, how we can’t stop judging and berating ourselves, how absolutely tiring it is just to get through one more day, to put up a cheerful front in front of everyone but cry ourselves to sleep every night, how sometimes it seems easier to just sleep and shut out the world.

But Jonghyun couldn’t rest. He had group activities, solo activities, he had to travel, to perform, to train and practice, to keep producing music, and the pressure to remain at the top and meet everyone’s expectations must have been overwhelming.

If only he had held on for one more day. If only he knew just how many people loved him. If only he had found the right sort of help. If only someone was with him that day. If only the paramedics had arrived in time. If only he could have seen that pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel, he might realise that life could be beautiful even if it seemed bleak in that moment.

I know I did.

If he hadn’t gone through with the suicide mission, he might have woken up the next morning and received a phone call from a dear friend and eaten his favourite food and played his music. He might have realised that if he had killed himself the night before, he wouldn’t have gotten to enjoy all these little pleasures life could offer him.

If he had held on for one more day, he might not have made the decision to kill himself again. Sometimes, one day is all it takes to make a depressed person see the value of living again.

There are those who don’t understand a thing about depression who would say, “What’s he got to be depressed about? He’s rich and famous, with millions of adoring fans and a successful career.”

But with depression, it’s not about how much you have. It’s about how much you have to live for. And sometimes, in the moment when we get swept away by our emotions, we lose sight of that. 70 percent of those who commit suicide made the decision within the hour, which means the majority of suicides are committed in that moment when we are blinded by the fog of our toxic thoughts.

In the end, Jonghyun had given in to those thoughts. He thought himself lacking and worthless, when the world saw him talented and lovable.

jonghyun quote

Source: Koreaboo

(Also, to say that someone has “no right” feel sad is just about the most ignorant and cruel thing to say. Dismissing someone’s emotions based on what you perceive is the most effective way to make a depressed person feel even more trapped. Everyone is entitled to feel, to hurt, to fear and to cry. Everyone. Unless you live in everyone’s heads, you don’t get to judge who has the right to feel sad.)

I saw the pictures of the funeral procession, and the sight of Key breaking down in tears, Onew looking so broken as though he had lost his soul, Minho trying to comfort everyone when he was also grieving, Donghae’s longing stare even after the hearse had driven away, Taeyeon, Krystal, and Amber crying their eyes out, and Jonghyun’s mom and sister weak and pale and in abject pain made me cry harder than I expected to for someone I didn’t know personally.

These are the faces of the people left behind.

The only comfort they now have is that Jonghyun is no longer suffering from himself. And maybe the only thing left to do now is to heal. To bend to a new reality, and reshape their lives around his absence. To hold on for one more day.

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If you’re in a dark place right now, know that this too shall pass. This moment that you are living in right now will only be as long as you allow it to be.

It is human to question your existence, to want to matter and to feel insignificant when you feel like you are not heard or appreciated. It is human to have questions that you don’t have the answers to, to fear that you don’t matter at all. But you are not alone in having to live out those questions — everyone battles the same kind of insecurity, neuroses, and fears. And with time you might arrive at the answers made just for you.

You will be sad and stressed and tired and completely sick of the world at times, but you will also experience joy and love and kindness. You will bear old scars and you will continue to suffer new ones. But you will also heal, and in doing so find your skin tougher, your sight clearer after crying.

You just need to hold on for one more day, to give life one more chance, and you might just be thankful that you did.

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KimuTaku said it right in this classic Japanese drama, Beautiful Life.


thoughts on turning 27

27 seems like an age people typically forget. It gets meshed together with the rest of our late twenties in a blur of work, anxiety, deadlines, bill-paying, anxiety, counting down to the weekends, anxiety…

So turning 27 typically doesn’t feel very monumental to most people. For me, however, turning 27 feels like somewhat of an achievement, all things considered. In the past year, I a) started questioning my life goals and trajectory, b) realised I might have anxiety, c) survived a depressive funk.

But thankfully, things were not all doom and gloom. In the past year, I also a) met many more book people (my tribe!!), in particular three incredibly smart women — Meredith, Nicole, and Becky — who share my love for writing and fiction, b) realised where I truly feel at home (not in fashion or retail, but in books and publishing), c) found and stuck to friends whom I know will have my back and never judge me for being myself around them, d) made progress with the Work in Progress (FINALLY we’re going somewhere).

Turning 27, I also learned these six things:

  1. Don’t label yourself.
    “Oh, I’m an INFP. This is just how I am.” You’re only limiting your growth and allowing yourself to stay stagnant with your flaws.
  2. Instead of tuning out that negative voice in your head, engage it in a (mental) conversation.
    Find out what it wants, where it came from, how you can come to a consensus with it.
  3. Don’t sweep the bad stuff under the carpet.
    That only ensures that they come back to bite you in the ass twice as aggressively. We need to look our emotions in the eye and acknowledge them. The only way through is through.
  4. Worry about one thing, you miss out on a whole bunch of other things.
    Basically what this article said. In particular, this:
    “While anxiety helps us focus on a task, it also blinds us to other opportunities. As a result, unlucky people miss out on prospects because they’re too busy worrying about one thing. Lucky people, on the other hand, are open to new experiences. They’re more willing to talk to new people, travel to new places, and try new things.”
  5. Don’t worry about what the rest of the world is doing.
    This is what my anxiety tells me: “You are missing out. You’re falling behind. Other people are having fun without you, having more fun without you; they’re on the fast track through life and ticking off everything on their bucket list, while you’re just doing the same shit day after day.”
    But that’s them and that’s their life. Not me and not mine. We don’t have to live by anyone else’s deadlines but our own.
  6. You’re miserable only because the gap between what you want and what you have is too big.
    Just do what you love and don’t expect it to bring you anything. Do what you love for the pure joy of it, and you won’t feel like you’re being owed anything.

Honestly, I’m still figuring this out and I don’t have all the answers yet. There are good days, and there are bad. But as long as the good outweigh the bad, I’d say we’re all heading in the right direction, no? One day at a time, is what I keep telling myself. Just focus on the next stone to step on and you won’t end up in the water.

So while I’m still a greedy piece of shit and want so much more out of life, these 27 years have been gratifying. Gained some, lost some. Aiming for the next stone.

Thank you to each and every one of you who have been a part of this journey so far. Your mark is indelible. ♥


Dreams - Poem by Langston Hughes

Chester Bennington was depressed

chester bennington linkin park

I woke up this morning to the devastating news of Chester Bennington committing suicide.

The first question is, of course, why. Why would a father of six, the frontman of arguably the most popular and successful alt-rock band, kill himself?

And then: did we all miss something? Some clue that we should have picked up on, perhaps in his songs? Perhaps Leave Out All the Rest was a sign?

While Mike Shinoda has always been the more media-friendly, bubbly one in the band, Chester has always been evidently more troubled. He spoke before about his traumatic past, drug and alcohol addiction, struggle with depression, and it seemed like music was the only outlet for his pain.

Depression is real. Depression is often undetectable. We’ve seen too many seemingly-happy and well-adjusted people, or people with seemingly-enviable lives, take their own lives.

I’ve known people personally who killed themselves. And each time my heart breaks for them. Realising that they had been battling themselves all this while, that none of us ever even guessed. That it had gotten to the point where they decided nothing was worth holding on for.

Depression isn’t something you can just get over, or be completely cured of. Sometimes, it takes courage to fight for one more day, to get up from bed and force yourself to go through the motions for one more day, to live when nothing makes you want to stay alive for one more day.

Depression affects more of us than we realise. It could be that kind teacher who gave you a word of encouragement, or that friend who is always the life of the party, or the one with her earphones plugged in and head buried in a book.

Point is, everything may look fine on the surface. They may be laughing and joking with you at work or at school, but they may also be crying themselves to sleep every night. They may not reveal more than the part of their personality everyone would love, because they don’t want to be a burden to the people around them.

Depression can eat you alive.

But as my friend Nicole (and fellow Muse) said in this post, “There are a lot of good things going on in life and a lot of good things ahead. Just like there are a lot of trying times and a lot of difficult things ahead.

“You can’t just focus on all the negative things. You’ll drive yourself into a depressed spiral that’s really hard to get out of, if you do that. You gotta remember to focus on the good, including the little things and the grand, exciting things.”

If you know or guess that someone is depressed and you want to help, know that you absolutely have the power to.

It can be as simple as a text message asking them if they are okay, or just sitting with them in silence, listening to them spill their thoughts even when they don’t make any sense to you, showing that you will always be there for them and never judge them. Sometimes, the smallest gestures like these can help keep a depressed person alive for one more day.

Be at peace, Chester. Thank you for your music, your spirit, your honesty. I hope you are finally free of your demons now.

leave out all the rest lyrics linkin park.jpg

when life crowds out everything else

don't put your dream in your pocket

You know how when you get too caught up in the daily grind and its nitty-gritty demands that everything else falls by the wayside and suddenly you glance at the calendar and realise weeks have passed and your brain is still stuck in two weeks ago — no, 2015?

Yeah, that just happened. Again. Actually, it’s happened too many times before. And weeks, months, YEARS can pass just like that. When you stop to take a breather and realise that all this time has fled and you’ve done pretty much nothing that you can show for.

2016 was like that for me. A year where everything was a blur, weeks blended into each other and I had no idea when one ended and another started. My calendar was full of deadlines, and the to-do list for work jostled for the most space on my phone and desktop.

We get caught up the snare of day-to-day life unwittingly. It creeps in, slow and insidious, beginning as just regular ol’ anticipation for the weekend, when we have some alone time, some room to breathe, at last. We try to survive through the week, and then anticipate the next weekend.

rinse wash repeat.jpg

Pretty soon, the brief reprieve offered by weekends is the only thing that’s keeping us afloat.

Weeks can fly by when we’re counting them down like that. We can lose grasp of our time, our goals, our dreams, when we let real life rob us day by day. Commitments like the day job, socialising, chores, errands… Something’s got to give, and more often than not it’s the thing that asks the least of us that gets sacrificed. The thing that asks the least of us, but gives us the most joy.

For artists, it’s our art.

It sounds frivolous and indulgent, but it isn’t. Living isn’t just about survival. On top of that, it’s about finding a purpose, a calling, a reason for being, what the Japanese call ikigai.


Everyone would have, by my age, typically found theirs by now. Otherwise, we’d all just stay in bed and wonder what we exist for.

For artists — at least, for this artist — the drive to create is what keeps me going. I can’t break down yet, I can’t give in yet, not until I publish another book, reach one more reader, finish writing another novel.


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When there is no space in our lives to create, or at least (in Liz Gilbert’s words) pursue our curiosity, life dims into a dreary pool of watery light. When our minds are so preoccupied with keeping up with the demands of everyday life to venture into the realms of creativity, we become ravenous, mercurial beasts, snapping at everything in our way and not understanding why. We grow heavy and lethargic in our hearts, to the point where we can’t seem to breathe, or where everything comes out in tears.

What Laini Taylor said in this blog post (which I keep going back to) was right:

You can be convinced you’re following your dream, or that you’re going to start tomorrow, and years can pass like that. Years.

The thing is, there will be pressure to adjust your expectations, always shrinking them, shrinking, shrinking, until they fit in your pocket like a folded slip of paper, and you know what happens to folded slips of paper in your pocket. They go through the wash and get ruined. Don’t ever put your dream in your pocket.

I let 2016 pass me by. I’m not going to let real life rob me of my time this year, I’m not going to put my dream in my pocket any longer. I will unfold it. I will find the time and space for it, if only because it is growing too restless sitting in my pocket and sitting in my heart and it’s manifesting itself as tears, despondency, night-time despair, and a bone-deep restlessness that is crowding out every other thought in my head.

But I don’t have time to go insane. I don’t have time for a mental breakdown (although physically I have, what with a high fever, sore throat, and the flu I’m just slowly recovering from). I don’t want to be lost and depressed anymore. Because there’s work to be done, and only I can get it done.

If nothing, I can at least say I tried, and it was all worth the effort.

I think the passion for an extraordinary life, and the courage to pursue it, is what makes us special. And I don’t even think of it as an “extraordinary life” anymore so much as simple happiness. It’s rarer than it should be, and I believe it comes from creating a life that fits you perfectly, not taking what’s already there, but making your own from scratch.

~ Laini Taylor



Drama Review: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo


weightlifting fairy.jpg

I had fully expected it to be a lighthearted, fluffy romantic comedy. But last night, this show made me cry at the end of episode 10.

WEIGHTLIFTING FAIRY may seem like just another feel-good rom-com, but it actually tackles a lot of hard-hitting emotional and psychological issues – such as trauma, pressure, eating disorder, and depression – that not just athletes but regular people go through. And that’s what makes this show so relatable.

Beneath all that cutesy puppy love, adorable banter and squeal-worthy scenes between the impossibly photogenic leads also lie big dreams, passion and depression, friendship and kinship, and a raw humanity to each character as they go through life making decisions big and small, making mistakes, and realising what matters most to them in the end.



WEIGHTLIFTING FAIRY KIM BOK JOO is a campus romance about the titular character (played by Lee Sung Kyung) who has been training to be a national weightlifter her whole life … until she encounters her first love at 21. In college, she is reunited with Joon Hyung (played by the handsome, cute AF Nam Joo Hyuk), a national swimmer whose dreams are hampered by an unresolved childhood trauma. His cousin, an kind, gentlemanly obesity clinic doctor (played by the gorrrrgeous Lee Jae Yoon), is the heroine’s first crush, and Song Si Ho (played by Kyung Su Jin) is an overachieving gymnast gradually pushed to breaking point.



  1. It’s YA Contemporary at its best

It is a deceivingly simple story about athletes trying to achieve their dreams, with an essential host of characters like hilarious sidekicks and tough but well-meaning coaches. It’s everything you would expect of a young adult contemporary story. It includes hilarious drunken shenanigans, first crushes, jealous ex-girlfriends, competitive seniors, sneaking out after hours, and more.

2. The relatable characters

Kim Bok Joo is a likeable, relatable character who is positive, down-to-earth, unassuming but not a pushover. She’s loyal and honest, raw and flawed – it’s easy to see parts of yourself in her, and you find yourself identifying with her, wanting her to be your best friend, and rooting for her throughout the story.


Dr Jeong, the object of her (initial) affections. And can you blame her?? The guy’s gorgeous.

Plus, she and her friends are total #friendshipgoals.



3. The burst-out-laughing-and-clap-like-a-flailing-seal moments


4. The chemistry between the two leads

I enjoy every single scene between Bok Joo and Joon Hyung – from the hysterically hilarious moments to the cute banter to the surprisingly poignant and sweet moments. It just makes you yearn to fall in love!



5. The realistic portrayal of depression

Despite her fast track to winning nationals, not everything is peachy in Bok Joo’s life. After a painful experience with unrequited love (to which I’m sure we can all relate), she begins to question why she’s weightlifting, whether she really loves it, what she’s doing it all FOR.

This scene at the end of episode 10 *spoilers ahead* where Bok Joo describes the symptoms of depression to Joon Hyung broke my heart:

It’s like she stole the words right from my lips. This scene made me realise that I was going through the exact same thing, that maybe I’m feeling just as lost and stuck as her at this juncture. (But more on that another day, perhaps.)

This is a major turning point in the story as she realises she no longer has any motivation or passion for weightlifting, the only thing she has known all her life. Now she’s lost, stuck in limbo, and has no idea how to recalibrate her life.

This depiction of depression feels on point. Bok Joo knows that something is wrong with her but she can’t pinpoint what it is – that’s what the first stage of depression is like. Sometimes, the person herself has no idea that she’s depressed but she knows something’s wrong with her. Joon Hyung immediately realises that Bok Joo is suffering from depression – sometimes, it’s the outsider who notices the symptoms first.

I like how the writers didn’t romanticise depression and presented it in the most raw and heartbreakingly honest way. The actors – both Lee Sung Kyung and Nam Joo Hyuk – did a great job too, as the sufferer and the bystander.


6. The swoon-worthy romance

Bok Joo and Joon Hyung collide (literally) into each other’s lives through a series of misunderstandings, then realise they were ex-elementary school classmates, and become good friends (best bros, in fact) before falling for each other. It’s a slow burn romance that viewers already root for right from the start.


Dying from the fluff!


I want someone who can stare out at the sea with me too.





Korean dramas and their picturesque scenes









I love this OTP because they understand each other very well as fellow athletes. Their affection and appreciation for each other goes as deep as kindred spirits’, and that is established even before the romance kicks in.

As fellow athletes, they can truly understand each other’s struggles, and encourage each other in significant ways: Bok Joo comforting Joon Hyung when he lost a race, and Joon Hyung regularly giving Bok Joo the best pep talks whenever she’s feeling anxious or nervous about a competition. They are each other’s biggest supporters.

Plus, I love that Bok Joo doesn’t need to be anything or anyone other than herself to inspire this kind of loyalty, affection and head-over-heels lurve from him. They started out as really good friends – bros, even – and maybe that’s why she can be entirely herself around him with no inhibitions.


7. The pretty soundtrack

NELLLLLLL!!! I can’t put into words how much I ADORE this soft rock band (if Muse and Radiohead had a love child, it would be Nell). The fact that their song fits so perfectly into this drama makes me so happy.

I’ve heard lots of good things about this acoustic indie band Standing Egg, but this is the first song of theirs I’m hearing and I’m in looooove.

How pretty and sad this song is! Perfectly encapsulates the phase where Bok Joo contemplates and reassesses her life.



This drama deals with the good, the bad, and the ugly things that college students, athletes, and really anyone go through. Don’t dismiss it as just a fluffy romantic comedy – it’s worth a lot more than that. Like all contemporary YA worth their salt, they stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.

And if not, there’s always Nam Joo Hyuk and Lee Jae Yoon’s pretty faces (and abs) to ogle at 😉


Open Letter to a Depressed Friend

blue hair

Dear Blue,

You’ve been pretty down lately. Actually, down might be an understatement. You’re depressed. Clinically so. And I don’t know how to help.

It started after you took up this job. You started out with intense concentration and a drive to perform well. You asked questions, turned to others for help. But then the demands of the job got to you, and liaising with clients proved to be more stressful than you expected. You got emotional when they got emotional; you took it personally, feeling each client’s exasperation more keenly than you needed to.

It didn’t help that your superior took it upon herself to micromanage and required a daily update of your work, and issued you copious documents and Excel sheets to fill out to keep track of every transaction made and deal closed. And despite your best efforts, despite the extra hours you worked, things were still scattered all over the place.

Soon, everything started weighing down on you from every end, and things were slipping through your fingers like water no matter how hard you grasped and clenched your fists. Meanwhile, your superior continued to monitor your behaviour at work, running a tight leash and hawk-eyeing your activities on your computer and even cellphone.

“She’s a tyrant,” we all declared, shaking with indignation on your behalf. “You don’t have to let her bully you like this.”

“But it’s my fault,” you would say, staring morosely into space. “I’m not meeting targets.”

I used to call it a Capricorn trait. Capricorns are a broody bunch, and they tend to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong, whether or not they are at fault. “You’re such a typical Capricorn. Cheer up! Things will be okay.”

Sometimes, I wanted to tell you to snap out of it. And I might even have on one occasion when your pessimism got to be too much for me. “Get mad, don’t get sad,” I said. Sorrow and self-pity were useless emotions that put nothing in motion, only drive you deeper into the mud. Anger helped; anger catapulted you out of the mud, for better or for worse. But it isn’t like you to get mad; anger isn’t your default emotion.

Besides, I realised that depression isn’t something you can just “snap out of”. It consumes you whole and takes over your life, like a giant winged beast that blots out the light in the sky, a beast whose cries you can’t block out. A Fellbeast.

Too often, it’s easy to discount someone else’s emotions unless we experience them ourselves. We tend to attribute a person’s depressed state to his or her mental tenacity, and believe that once you force yourself to rise above it you’ll be fine. But depression isn’t just a state of being; it’s a condition that requires hours of therapy, antidepressants, and a listening ear.

So that’s what you did. You went for therapy sessions and took medication, and things did get better. You laughed more, and engaged in more social activities again. But still there are times when work eats away at you so you can’t even taste your food or focus on everyday tasks. All we can do as your friends is hold up your spirits, padding you with constant reassurances, remind you of everything else that’s good in your life, and actively seek for alternatives to improve your situation.

Reality is not always kind, and so you sometimes have to fill that role all on your own.

You have to allow yourself compassion and forgiveness. Shame is not useful. Feeling lazy or weak or as a failure won’t fix anything for you. Beating yourself up isn’t a very good way to become who you want to be.

~ Chuck Wendig

Dear Blue, you taught me to have more patience for someone who requires constant encouragement to keep afloat. You made me experience “sympathy depression”, and in turn understand what it’s like to be cloaked in the iron blanket of hopelessness and unrelenting self-doubt and criticism.

So I hope that while you develop a rhino heart and a bullet-proof armour against the slings and arrows of life, the sticks and stones that others may launch at you, you will also be far kinder to yourself than you are. You are more capable than you believe, funnier than you think, and stronger than you realise.

Whatever you choose to do from now on, know that we will always have your back and be here to offer a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or supply you with as many images of derpy hot guys and cute fuzzy animals as you need to feel better again.