A Single Girl’s Guide to Being Happy this Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day this weekend. Which means a weekend of enduring the sight of couples wearing cheesy coordinated outfits and men presenting stuffed teddy bears to girls, as well as the barrage of commemorative photos on social media. #truelove4eva

Funny how it’s been years since this occasion was first given so much commercial value, and people still buy into the whole fanfare.

Maybe I’m just a cynic, or I don’t understand what it’s like to be in love. But while I’m sure there’s much to appreciate about being in a committed relationship with someone, there’s also a lot to be thankful for as a twenty-something singleton.

As I navigate the dating minefield, I’ve also been collecting dating and relationship advice from well-meaning friends of mine (who have witnessed me at the height of an infatuation and suffered through my tales of unrequited interest, on my part and on the chaser’s).

Here are some that struck a chord in me, along with other lessons I’ve learned on my own:

 

1. Know Thy Worth

If you make someone your everything and he only treats you as his something, it’s going to end in tears. You expect too much. You want more. You start getting resentful. It’s only going to wear you out in the end. And you deserve more than that.

So remember what you are worth. If the guy isn’t putting in any effort at all, then he isn’t worthy of you.


2. Focus on Being You

Nobody likes a wallflower with the personality of a sock. Be happy in your own company. If you don’t even enjoy being with yourself, then you can’t expect someone else to. So fill up your life with the things that make you happy. Have goals. Strive to achieve them. Start creating a version of yourself that you will be proud of. When you’re so busy being you, you won’t need validation from anyone else but yourself. And that itself is a powerful thing.

 

3. Take Your Time

While my Facebook feed is choked with pictures of friends and acquaintances flaunting their engagement rings, anniversary photos and even (gasp) babies, there are also many who are single.

Sometimes, it can feel like this:

But I don’t see the point in going into a premature relationship and then half-assing it. “Trying out” with someone I’m not 100% into would eventually just wear out an INFJ like me. Like my friend Liz said, timing is important. If two people are at different stages of their lives where they are seeking different things, then it’s likely that they will run parallel to each other and never meet, even if they do like each other. Tragic, but true.

So I guess time takes time. Better a happy singledom than an unhappy relationship.

 

4. Be Open … But Have Some Standards

I’ve been told that my expectations are too high – a statement that I really don’t agree with, by the way – and that you could have someone who ticks all the right boxes in your checklist (if you have one) but it still wouldn’t feel right … as Glamour’s experiment below proved.

Girl Meets Her Perfect Match

That doesn’t mean you settle for anyone who shows the slightest bit of interest in you. Rather, it’s taking the time to know more people so that you understand what you’re really looking for so that you don’t end up rushing into a relationship.

 

5. Don’t Sweat It

A rejection isn’t the end of the world. A non-reply – or a curt, half-hearted one – may dent your dignity, but what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger. Sometimes, you can do everything right and things would still not work out the way you hope it would. What are you going to do, mope and cry?

Once you start placing less importance on one thing, you’re freeing yourself up to many other things. You’re giving yourself the space to pursue other things and saving yourself a whole lot of angst in doing so.

Besides, no one said you only had to go after one thing in life. And frankly, you have better stuff to worry about than why he blue-ticked you on WhatsApp.

 

6. But Don’t Ever Give Up on Love

This one came from my dad. Despite all the horror stories we’ve heard about relationships gone wrong and people being screwed over by love, he still believes there’s someone out there for me. And according to him, the worst thing you can do for yourself that would diminish your chances of ever falling in love is to become disillusioned by the notion of love.

So even if consecutive lacklustre dates and humiliating rejections may convince you that you’re better off alone after all, I guess the key is to have faith that someday someone will appreciate you for being you, and vice versa. In the meantime, stay awesome and get comfortable with solitude.

 

What other dating advice have you received that you think is worth imparting? Share them in the Comments section below! I’m all ears.

This article first appeared on ZALORA Community.

 

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how Girl, Interrupted completely wrecked me

Girl, Interrupted Poster

So thanks to my friend’s recommendation, I watched Girl, Interrupted (1999) over the weekend. She kept raving about Angelina Jolie’s performance and told me that since I was so interested in psychological disorders I should watch the movie.

So I did and now I don’t know if I’m still out of that funk. You know how some stories wreck you from inside you and stay inside you for days, maybe weeks or years? Girl, Interrupted messed me up and turned me into a complete emotional wreck.

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Speaking of Misha, he had a tiny role in the movie too. I couldn’t help it – I burst out laughing when I saw him try to seduce Winona Ryder.

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Castiel, socially awkward since 1999.

What It’s About

Susanna (played by the beautiful Winona Ryder) is admitted to Claymoore and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder after a failed suicide attempt.

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There, she is thrown into a contained, isolated world far removed from reality as she struggles to make sense of her emotional turmoil. She meets a host of patients each with their own diagnoses – a pathological liar (Clea DuVall), a bulimic cutter (Brittany Murphy), a burn victim who behaves like a child (Elisabeth Moss), an anorexic (Angela Bettis) …

And then there’s Lisa (Angelina Jolie), charming, manipulative, rebellious, “dead inside” Lisa, a sociopath who has been in and out of Claymoore for eight years.

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Lisa takes an interest in Susanna, who now lives in the ward vacated by Lisa’s best friend who killed herself. Susanna finds Lisa exciting and magnetic, but is drawn into a downward spiral the more she hangs out with her.

How It Broke Me

The scene where ***spoiler alert (for the rare few who haven’t watched it)*** Susanna found Daisy the bulimic cutter dead in the bathroom after she hung herself completely broke me. It just made me think about all the people out there who battle their inner demons daily, pushing away the voice in their head in an attempt to feel normal and be normal.

Some parts got close to the heart, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels alone or sad or like a failure sometimes. Some days, all you want to do is just curl up and be alone with your feelings, to cry yourself to sleep and let the debilitating self-doubt and sadness consume you. Other days, you just want them to go away and wish that you didn’t feel anything.

But it’s probably easier to give in to these emotions than dust them off and press on. The trick, I guess, is to keep moving and not stay stagnant with those feelings curdling around you and holding you back.

Favourite Quotes

“Crazy isn’t being broken, or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you, or me, amplified. If you ever told a lie, and enjoyed it. If you ever wished you could be a child, forever.”


What Susanna wanted to say to Daisy (after Daisy killed herself):

“…I will never know what it was like to be her. But I know what it’s like to want to die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in but you can’t. You hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside.”

Psychiatric nurse Valerie’s advice to Susanna:

“I think what you’ve gotta do is put it down. Put it away. Put it in your notebook, but get it out of yourself. Away so you can’t curl up with it anymore.”

I wanted to give Valerie a hug too after she said this!

Scene between Susanna and her psychiatrist:

Susanna: I’m ambivalent. In fact that’s my new favorite word.

Dr. Wick: Do you know what that means, ambivalence?

Susanna: I don’t care.

Dr. Wick: If it’s your favorite word, I would’ve thought you would…

Susanna: It means I don’t care. That’s what it means.

Dr. Wick: On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings… in opposition. The prefix, as in “ambidextrous,” means “both.” The rest of it, in Latin, means “vigor.” The word suggests that you are torn… between two opposing courses of action.

Susanna: Will I stay or will I go?

Dr. Wick: Am I sane… or, am I crazy?

Susanna: Those aren’t courses of action.

Dr. Wick: They can be, dear – for some.

Susanna: Well, then – it’s the wrong word.

Dr. Wick: No. I think it’s perfect.

I love how this exchange shows how we are in control of what we think, what we allow ourselves to feel, and the reality we construct for ourselves.

Afterthoughts

Girl, Interrupted is the kind of story that you don’t know whether to love or hate, like this little book called We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. On one hand, you love it because it is so well executed and emotional and moving; it opens up your eyes to the lives of mentally ill people and makes you see the blurred lines between what’s real and what’s in your head. On the other, it totally runs you over like a freight train and leaves you in pieces all over the ground; it worms a little too close into your heart for comfort, and I found myself sobbing during more than one scene towards the end.

I love stories that take you through a whole range of emotions. They make you feel so pathetically human, yet so wonderfully alive.

Okay, I think I’ve written my way out of this emotional fugue. Back to normal life!

Have you watched Girl, Interrupted? What are your thoughts about it, or of mental illnesses in general? I’d love to hear from you! Oh, and if you have any more recommendations on similar subject matter, feel free to share!

february’s to-read list is not kind on the wallet

The wait is over! February is here!! Sorry, wallet. February’s not a good month for you. Blame the publishers for coming out with a slew of titles I’ve been dying to get my hands on:
1. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

I know I’ve gone on for too long about this book. But the concept! The premise! The conflict!

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It would really suck if the book didn’t live up to expectations, because it looks so delicious I could gobble it up right now. (I didn’t read the seven teaser chapters because I want to read it all at one go, and not wait for weeks before reading the rest of the story.)
2. The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

If you’ve read Holly Black’s Curseworker series, you’ll know how brilliant she is at weaving complex but un-confusing plots that keep you turning the pages. And this book looks as deliciously sinister as The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, with vicious faeries (also an obsession of mine that led to Blood Promise), gifted siblings, and a horned boy waking from a long, deep slumber to fight the fairies.

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3. Monstrous, by MarcyKate Connolly

A girl born with a spiked tail and wings meant to save the girls in her town from their mysterious fate is spotted by a boy who leaves a red rose for her every evening.

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4. Beastkeeper, by Cat Hellisen 

A girl who grew up lonely and longing for magic and on the run learns the truth about what they’re running from when her mother abandons them and her father transforms into something beastly. Best part is, she’s cursed too, and can only break free of the curse when she falls in love. It’s a slightly different take on the Beauty and the Beast story, since the protagonist is beast, so this should be good.

5. The Last Time We Say Goodbye, by Cynthia Hand

I’m not usually into tear-jerkers, but I’ve been in this mood ever since I started watching the Korean drama series, Pinocchio (the music! the romance! plus, the relationship between the protagonist and her cold, distant mother), and read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, which is more heart-breaking than I had ever expected.

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This is probably why No Room in Neverland is turning out way more emotionally intense than I had intended. I’m on page 185 now, by the way! Woohoo!

What’s on your To-Read list for February? :0)

9 Ways to Put Off Writing Your Novel

1. One word: Tumblr

2. Actually, make that another word: Pinterest

3. Consider new ways of complimenting someone

The Surrealist Compliment Generator, man. It says the strangest, loveliest things. Go on, try it. Here are some of my favourites: 

If you were a camel your humps would be esoterically bald from overuse. 

Your soul contains all that is found in insects, pigs and vermin.

Your nasal linings will last as long as the skin of rocks, thrust enigmatically upon a distant shorline of mating beetles. 

I find your eye sockets to be a wondrous amusement park of neo-plastic pleasures and oncogenic delights.

Seven donkeys and a concubine cannot compare with the tarnished sheen left in your path of combustion. 

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Can you tell I’ve refreshed it many times. Ha!

4. Fangirl over other people’s writing

from Stay, by Deb Caletti
from The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

5. Clean your room

Because I’m a neat freak that way. Not because I’m trying to procrastinate. Definitely not.

6. Look for new music on Spotify and 8tracks

What? I’m making a playlist. FOR THE NOVEL, OF COURSE.

7. Read terrifying reviews on Goodreads

I go in there to look for book recommendations, only to end up reading snarky reviews that are equal parts mean (imagine if you were the writer!) and hilarious.

It’s enough to make you swear off putting your work out there ever again.

8. Write a blog post on how to procrastinate

9. And hello, Boxing Day sales!

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Really, who can resist? At the very least, it helps to take my mind off the fact that another year has come and gone and I still haven’t achieved shit.

Happy holidays, everyone!

when not writing, I am planning an itinerary

It’s mid-December already?! How did THAT happen? Where did 2014 go??

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Donghae is as amazed as I am. Except consternation looks better on his pretty face.

It’s always as the year wears on that you get more disillusioned. Not only did I not accomplish any of my goals, I’m falling behind on my word count. Why, Joyce, WHY. Procrastination is a terrible colour on you. All those time you were waiting for the muse to strike – keeping unnecessarily busy with creating playlists for your stories, decorating your room, looking for new music, and reading (mean and scary) reviews on Goodreads – you could have plowed through your sucky writing and found a way through your manuscript.

It was around this time last year that I started on Neverland, and I’m STILL writing it, STILL haven’t written its ending even for the first draft.

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Don’t judge me, Siwon!

It’s one thing to write at your own pace, and another to put off writing it because you’re afraid you’ll fail again like you had the first two times (Neverland is at Draft 3 now).

Good thing for good books in the meantime.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15818357-dreams-and-shadows

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14061955-siege-and-storm?from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9361589-the-night-circus?from_search=true

*

Also, I’m planning for a trip back to Korea next spring!!

Truth is, I’m a travel noob. I’ve never travelled free-and-easy before. It’s just easier to have travel agencies plan everything nicely for you. But I really want to learn how to plan a trip from scratch, get around on my own, and explore places I wouldn’t get to see on a package tour. Everyone I know travel on their own in their twenties. I mean, what better time to do that, right?

And where better to visit than the land of K-pop? Yes, I have become a legit fangirl and I’m not going to be ashamed about it. So I like K-pop, I enjoyed Korea the last time I was there, and now I’m going to make this spring 2015 trip happen.

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Donghae approves, obviously

But there are so many sites for flight and accommodation deals and so many places I want to visit and things to take note of (public holidays, for instance – you do not want to jump into the fray at train stations or the airport), transport preparations (e.g. buying train tickets beforehand) that quite frankly I’m getting inundated by it all.

So if you have any tips on flights, accommodation, places of interest, and getting around (we’re planning to travel around Seoul, Busan and Jeju), do share! All help will be greatly appreciated by this travel noob :0)

The week of rejection letters

Three weeks into NaNoWriMo and my word count stands at … 28k. Yup, just as I expected. I’m not going to make it in time.

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As Chuck Wendig said,

It’s harder just not to create art than it is to actually sit down or stand there and commit. It’s easier to think about creating something, or to talk about creating something, than it is to actually will yourself to that act — a very difficult, transitional, sacrificial act. It’s easier to think about stories or dream stories or imagine your published stories than it is to actually carve them letter by letter across a piece of paper.

Thinking is easy; dreaming is easier. It’s the doing that feels like carving out your skin inch by inch, but it’s also what gives you the most satisfaction. Now, if I could just hold on to that thought…

Literary agents, however, have had a very productive week in terms of responding to emails. At this stage, any response is better than none. I’m not really a fan of the whole “We’ll reply only if we’re interested” policy more and more agencies are adopting these days.

This week, I’ve had three rejection letters. Nice ones, but crushing nonetheless. I don’t think I’ll ever be immune to the sting. It’s nothing personal, I know. It’s just … you feel like you were soooooo close, you know? They’d already requested the full manuscript for consideration. They liked it. It JUST. WASN’T. GOOD. ENOUGH.

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It’s enough to make a writer want to give up sometimes. If your best still isn’t good enough, does that mean you’re just not cut out for this after all?

At least most of the agents are really kind. I’ve had one who called me Joshua and some who responded with just one line: not for me but thanks.

 

 

Rejection Letter #1:

Dear Joyce,

Thank you so much for submitting Until Morning to Giant Squid Books. Your novel is a fresh take on romantic YA and I have not seen many like it! However, the switching perspectives and long dream sequences did not resonate with us, so I do not think we are the right fit. I am confident that you will find a home for your novel and I wish you the best of luck.

Warmly,
Rachel 

 

 

Rejection Letter #2: 


Dear Joyce,

Thanks again for sending me UNTIL MORNING, and for your patience as I read it. I’m a big fan of Haruki Murakami, and your use of magical realism really reminded me of his work. I loved the way the characters’ lives were interlaced, and how they meet inside Lexi’s dreams of Sam’s paintings. I thought the way you constructed their worlds was very fresh and interesting. I loved the twist of her being in a coma. Overall, I thought the concept of your book was very imaginative.

I felt like I had an immediate impression of each of their characters. Lexi seemed very free-spirited (in her dreams), while Sam has always had a lot of structure in his life and pressure from his father. I wanted to learn more about their characters, to see them develop and expand as I continued reading, and unfortunately, I didn’t see that as much as I would’ve liked. It was interesting to learn that Lexi is much less free-spirited in real life, because it helped give more nuance and depth to the version of Lexi that appears in the dreams. However, I still didn’t feel that I got to know either of their characters as deeply as I wanted to. I also felt that the way they appear to be complete opposites in the dreams, yet become close so immediately, felt a little too perfect and unrealistic. The similarities between them as well (both having a sick mother) felt a little too coincidental to be realistic.

As much as I admired the overall concept of your book, I’m afraid I didn’t connect to the characters in the way I’d hoped, so I have to pass. I wish you all the best in finding the right agent and getting this published.

Best wishes,
Annie B

 

 

Rejection Letter #3: 

Dear Joyce,

Thank you so much for submitting to the Collaborative. Unfortunately, while your concept is intriguing, we recently sold a project that involves a romance conducted via dreaming, and as a small company, we need to be very careful about taking on projects with too much overlap to titles already on our list. I’m sorry this wasn’t a match but I wish you the best of luck in finding the perfect home for your work!

All my best,
Annie S

 


Rejection Letter #4: 

Dear Joshua,


Many thanks for sending us Until Morning.
I am sorry I can’t offer to represent you at this time, but I wish you every success with your writing in the future.

Best wishes,
Gillie

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Can I go wallow now??

NaNo-ers, power on anyway! It’s a daunting task, seeing a novel through to the end without getting held back by rejection or self-doubt, and writing is a much less lonely business during NaNo. But nothing beats reaching the end, you know that.

Also, BIIIIG thanks to everyone who stopped by with an encouraging note or remark – you don’t know how much it means to a writer. *kisses you fervently*

Halfway into NaNoWriMo!

Writing advice from Kate Brauning:

Don’t get discouraged when you’re drafting if you’re not seeing magic happen. That magical touch and those insightful moments you see in great books aren’t magic at all. They’re the result of blood and sweat. First drafts are limp and flat and awkward—that’s normal. The depth and layers come as you revise. And revise. And revise.

Ugh, limp and flat and awkward first drafts. Too much experience with that. But it’s true that it gets better with each draft. You kind of figure out more stuff the more you write – the mood, the tone, the characters, their voices, their backgrounds – and all that helps you see the end more clearly.

So how is NaNoWriMo going for all my writerly friends?

Reading Siege and Storm, book #2 of the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, is making me ache to write Indigo Tides.

It is so insanely good, much better than the first in terms of prose and pacing. I mean, it’s got mythical monsters and fairy tales and an unorthodox (and callously funny) ship captain that is fast becoming my favourite character in the book. What’s not to love? Plus, I love how Leigh doesn’t go overboard with the sappiness between Mal and Alina – every scene, every exchange, every touch between them is significant and propels the story forward while leaving your emotions scattered everywhere.

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But that’s a review for another day. I will properly gush about it then. For now,

Off to Neverland! Have a good week, everyone :0)