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!

The 15 stages of book addiction

1. At first, you come across the book with the pretty cover and you’re like

 

 

 

2. First chapter in and you’re still like

 

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3. But halfway through you become like

 

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4. And then like

 

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5. By the final chapter you’re like

 

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Even though you’re like this

 

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6. After you close the book you’re like

 

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And

 

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7. You rush out to buy the hard copy even though you’ve already got the e-book.

 

 

 

8. You look for someone to fangirl with over the book, but it’s like

 

 

 

9. But then you find a fellow fan at last and it’s like

 

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10. Later, you learn that the sequel is out and this becomes you

 

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11. But then the sequel won’t be out until next year and you’re like

 

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12. Finally, the sequel is here and you’re like

 

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13. You repeat stages 4 and 5, only this time you’re more like this

 

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And

 

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And

 

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14. And now that there’s a final installment, you’re like

 

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But since it’s the end, you’re also like

 

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15. So you ration your candy, so to speak

 

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The above chronicle is all thanks to this mindblowing, awe-inspiring, wonderfully crafted epic trilogy:

 

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(gif from Laini’s blog)

 

Thank you, Laini, for sharing your beautiful writing with the world.

 

Chinese New Year weekend recap!

Happy Monday!

For those who celebrate, how was your Chinese New Year weekend? Mine involved lots of pigging out and selfie-taking. So much so that I’ve sparked the comment, “Why do you keep taking selfies? Have you never seen your face before?” from a selfie-hating friend. Oh yeah, he’s a riot.

Anyways, pictures!

Remember those horse decorations at Chinatown? They look even more magnificent at night.

On the eve of Chinese New Year’s eve, we had a visitor at the office. And then some.

Everyone, particularly the non-Chinese, were incredibly amused by the God of Fortune and the lion dance troupe that came knocking in a clamour of gongs and drums.

Later, we had the traditional lou hei, where we tossed the mix of raw vegetables, salmon, honey, peanuts, crackers as high as we could without making a complete mess on the table, while yelling out whatever auspicious phrases we knew and our wishes for the Lunar New Year. Most of the wishes went along the lines of getting a promotion/pay raise/a boyfriend and winning the lottery.

When we were done, one of the guys from the International team asked, “So do you guys eat it or do you just play with it?”

Of course we tuck in! It takes a lot out of you to yell and toss things in the air. (I kid.)

Chinese New Year’s eve was the day of feasting, and we were all too busy stuffing our faces to take any photos of the spread. Ah well.

Per our annual tradition, my dad and I went to catch the fireworks by the bay after dinner. There’s something magical about fireworks. All these explosions of colour and light above you as the ground rumbles and shakes beneath you. You feel heady, dazzled, ready to take on what comes next. Like a star being born. Like you’re shaking off the grime of last year, one explosion in the sky at a time. Boom. Clean slate.

That family behind me couldn’t have been noisier. Don’t you just hate it when people talk during a firework display? It’s like being interrupted when you’re reading. You just need some space to appreciate the display in silence, reflect on the past year, and make wishes for the new year – NOT hear some guy behind you go, “Wah wah wah!” nonstop.

Ah well.

While waiting for the firework display, and after it was over, my dad and I got a little shutter-happy.

The God of Fortune in front of the Singapore Flyer
Light festival!
And more pretty lights!
And more!
What’s better than a horse? A pink horse!

There’s this Chinese custom where children sleep late – or better yet, don’t sleep at all – on Chinese New Year’s eve so that your parents can live to a ripe old age. It’s just as well that Dad and I usually go catch the fireworks at midnight. I get to prolong my dad’s life! Those who know me know that I abide by quite a rigid routine: asleep at 11 pm, awake at 7 am, swim at 8 am and start the day by 10 am. But this annual tradition calls for an exception. Besides, the pool’s closed on Day 1 of Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year Day 1 is when the entire family congregates at my grandparents’ place and – yes, you guessed it – feast. Again. Well, there’s the whole exchange of well-wishes and socialising and photo-taking. But food was a major part of the day too.

Again, we were too busy chomping down on my grandmother’s homemade dishes – vegetable and duck soup, stir-fried broccoli and mushrooms and prawns, braised pork belly and abalone stew with and hard-boiled eggs, roasted meats and ngoh hiang, which is this mix of minced meat and chopped water chestnuts and prawn bits rolled spring roll style in fried beancurd skin. HEAVEN.

Images procured from the Web, for the sake of those unacquainted:

Braised pork belly with hard-boiled eggs
Salted vegetable and duck soup
Ngoh Hiang

Is it any wonder my healthy eating habits go straight out the window during Chinese New Year?

Then we had to take the (pretty much) prerequisite selfies too. It’s not every day everyone is all dolled up and together, after all.

With my aunts and cousins on the left
And my dad

I swear by fit-and-flare dresses. They cinch in your waist and make your legs look slim. Bonus if they come in pretty colours like lilac or Ming vase prints!

On the second day, Dad and I caught I, Frankenstein, which turned out to be surprisingly good! I was pretty wary about it given the unfortunate experience with Hansel and Gretel (even the awesome Jeremy Renner couldn’t save it). Remixed classics tend to get butchered despite the best intentions.

But I, Frankenstein was pretty original, and as far as fantasy stories go, this one was entertaining enough without inane or extraneous dialogues. Frankenstein’s monster, in this movie, has become a modern-day demon-hunter caught in the age-old battle between gargoyles (descendants of heaven) and demons. So crazy it’s good!

And on the third day, there was more feasting. I’m starting to sound like an unapologetic glutton. This time, it was Korean barbeque, just because.

And that was it for the weekend! More gatherings to come, in the vein of Chinese New Year. And I’m actually looking forward to them!

*

Anyway, this is completely random, but I am SO tempted to get some hair chalk. Have you heard of it before? Apparently, it’s like hair dye, but very temporary – so temporary you can wash it off anytime you want –  so this is perfect for someone who gets bored of her looks easily. With hair chalk, I can finally get pink streaks in my hair … like this!

Look how sweet but punkish Rachel McAdams looks!
You can look completely sweet too, but not boring, like January Jones
Ah, Chloe. I swear, she can do no wrong.

Have I mentioned that Chloe Moretz is one of my style icons? Such a fashion risk-taker but always classy and age-appropriate.

Pink streaks and waves, a la Nina Dobrev? Heck yeah!

And the best part about hair chalks? I don’t have to commit to anything. Just wash with water and shampoo!

Ah, hair chalk. Please stop tempting me!

*

So now it’s back to real life, even though Chinese New Year celebrations typically last for 15 days. Back to writing and rewriting and revising and polishing, because damn I am making this year the year my writing dreams come true.

Stephanie Perkins on how to make yourself write even when the going gets tough:

Free-write before you write-write. Eventually, you’ll get so tired of your own whining that you’ll actually go write something.

Ha! Ain’t that the truth. After a while, I realised all my complaining and head-banging (that is, against the desk, not to the music) isn’t leading me anywhere with my work-in-progress. So I decided to push through. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.

Or, you know, you can also blog.

Steph goes on:

I know from experience. I have tens of thousands of freewriting words telling myself how much both my novels and me suck. That negative energy has to come out somewhere, and freewriting is a safe place to say the things you’re most afraid of — and to wake your brain up in the process.

Free-writing. Hmm. Laini Taylor also advocates this practice. I mean, come on. She wrote an award-winning book of short stories based on these free-writes that obviously took her places. But then again, she’s Laini Taylor. She totally has the writing chops to produce award-winning (National Book Award, no less) books.

Writing a novel — a publishable novel — takes work. Real, actual, hard WORK.

This requires an attitude adjustment from, “Oh, what a fun little hobby” to “I will DO this. Even when it gets hard, even when I don’t like it anymore, even when I want to give up. I will keep working until I reach the end.”

*

And finally, since it’s Monday, here are some mood-lifters to kick start your week!

Misha Collins and his son West cooking – too cute!

For the complete version (and a bag of laughs), watch this:

Westie, stop being so frigging adorable! I can’t take this! 

Plus, can I just say how incredibly patient Misha is? Guys are the sweetest when they’re good with kids. I like how he lets West make the decisions and doesn’t tell him what to do, just guides and facilitates whenever necessary. Giving your kids some level of autonomy can do wonders for their self-esteem when they grow older.

Check out the earlier episodes! They are just as funny and adorable! :0)

Pink owl cookies – too cute to eat!

You pretty, pretty boy.
Hallim Park in Jeju Island
Jeju-do, I WILL be back again. Soon
Santorini. Some day.
Because that’s the best way to get by

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday moodlifters!

(I’ve decided to name all my posts on Monday “Monday moodlifters” because I’m a lazy ass who doesn’t want to come up with new post titles every week. So if you have issue with the cheesy name, suck it. Kidding!)

So I came across this article on weird things that affect our dreams today. I don’t know if it’s all just a load of horse shit, but they do sound plausible. At least, we all know the stuff we’re exposed to during the day gets processed by our pre-conscious mind and they manifest in completely bizarre ways when we’re asleep.

Speaking of dreams, I had the weirdest dream last Saturday (I’m starting to see a pattern here – is Saturday the day when my circadian rhythm jumps out of whack?), and the emotions I experienced in it were so intense I woke up crying. No shit.

(It’s funny. You may be sobbing your heart out in your dream, so hard that you feel like your chest and face might explode from all that emotion, but you wake up and find that you’re only just tearing up. Like how you’re screaming and shrieking in your dream, and you’re actually just whimpering in waking.)

My dream might have to do with the book I just finished reading:

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

 

It’s about a girl named Portia who was abandoned by her family at a home for girls during the Great Depression era. I generally avoid books set in depressing times because they’re such downers (sorry!), but this one has a circus, a budding romance and is a coming-of-age story about a girl searching for her father.

Okay, that’s a terrible summary. I think this blurb from Teen Librarian Toolbox does it more justice:

Portia has always grown up hearing the stories of her family, but when her family disappears there is no one left to care for her except for The Mister. The Mister runs the McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls and it is a place that you would do anything to escape if you could, perhaps even death.  When one of the girls in the home, her friend Caroline, does indeed take her life, the thought that she may be a murderer haunts her.  For a while Portia languishes at the home, biding her time and praying that her father will magically appear and rescue her, but when the circus caravan drives by and a card with all their routes on it falls out a window and glides slowly to the ground, she has a new plan.


Portia jumps on a bright red bicycle and pedals to a new type of freedom, she hopes.  Her she stumbles upon The Wonder Show, a side show of circus freaks who caravan across the country and make a meager living based solely on their various oddities.  Tall men, short men, fat ladies and a woman with no arms who throws knives with deadly precision – they are now the only hope that Portia has of out running The Mister and trying to find the father she knows once loved the circus.  Portia knows it is only a matter of time before The Mister finds her, he is not the type of man to let someone get away. And Portia, more than anyone ever has, has upset The Mister.

 

Abandonment, optimism, flagging hope, It’s right in line with the themes and emotions of Neverland. Plus, the pacing is tight and keeps you turning the pages, the characters are people you want to root for, there is an underlying sense of urgency and danger threaded throughout the story, and you find yourself hoping along with Portia for her father to find her.

Some beautiful quotes from the book:

Sometimes promises are even harder to keep than secrets. Promises are easily made- we toss them like coins bound for a fountain and leave them there, under the water, waiting to be retrieved.

And:

The ones who left (tapped at the edge of her memory), and the ones who were left behind, everyone in motion like startled birds, trying to find a place to land.

And:

There was always someone going and someone left behind. Portia had been both. She had enjoyed neither. But she knew that leaving a place was sometimes necessary, when you wouldn’t breathe there anymore, when you weren’t yourself because of it.

And finally:

Lives only begin once.  Stories are much more complicated.

 

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I love it so much I NEED to own it.

Anyway, yes, the dream.

It involved a girl (let’s call her Iris) being found by Mother, a no-nonsense but kind lady who founded the Academy for Wayward Teenage Girls. There, she got into trouble with the other girls, got framed, got kissed, got blamed for a murder, got expelled, and finally she realised that she had nowhere left to go. That the Academy, for all its failings and imperfections and hateful rules and hierarchy, was the only place she had come to count on. That part where Mother had to let her go was the part where Iris (or, okay, me, since I was Iris in the dream) struggled to hold in her tears and eventually broke down. I woke up to find my pillow soaked, although I wasn’t choking on my tears the way Iris – or I – had been in the dream.

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What, you don’t get weird-ass dreams like that?

On the plus side, that dream made for some really good writing material. I might write something about it when I have the time, maybe a short story, if not a proper novel. I’ve been saving my dreams for ages, recording them in my notebook as detailed as I possibly can, hoping to one day discover them properly and fill up the missing pieces (you know how dreams can be a little hole-y).

Hmm. How shall I develop Iris’s story? I already have a few ideas brewing, but am not sure how to work out the technicalities…

NO, JOYCE, NO. NOT NOW. NOW IS THE TIME FOR NEVERLAND!! DO NOT GET SIDETRACKED.

Okay, that’s enough rambling for the day. Shall leave with a few lovely quotes and pictures, as usual.

John Green offers some very inspiring advice to aspiring writers:

Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t — and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything — because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.

It’s easy to lose sight of the reason you write. We want to be published so badly, want everything that comes along with being published. Book tours, book signings, brushing shoulders with YA superstars – *ahem* Laini Taylor *ahem* Sarah Dessen… Writing is such a lonely journey we want to see results sooner, if not at least have people to share the process with. To find someone(s) who’s as excited and invested in the story as we are.

Which is why writing a novel requires SO MUCH patience and perseverance. You need stamina to see this shit through. To put yourself through this mental agony day after day until you hit The End.

But I guess I will try to see this journey – or, in fact, every journey, assuming I still have stories I want to write – for what it is. If not a gift, then at least a much-needed lesson in perseverance.

Laini Taylor on writing meaningful dialogue:

I think the trick to enjoying dialogue (which I think is the lifeblood of a book) is: to have characters who want things and are doing things. Then there’s plenty to talk about, and their unique identities emerge more (for me) in the writing of dialogue than anywhere else.

WANTING and DOING. What do my characters WANT and DO?

 

Rose garden love!
F.R.I.E.N.D.S. love!
Reading love!

And finally,

Pretty boy love!

 

Have a great week, everyone! ❤

 

less sulking, more smiling!

Something from Debbie Millman to start off this post:

If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.

And in that vein,

I FINALLY MADE SOME HEADWAY WITH NEVERLAND!!

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(Oh, Misha. How he manages to switch between himself and Castiel is beyond me.)

Plus, I’m going back to Blood Promise, and making the final edits before sending it out to the agents who professed interest in it before. Things to do and things to look forward to! No more wandering and wondering in Writer’s Block-ville.

Oh yes, merry Christmas, indeed.

I don’t know about you, but for the first time in my life, I’m feeling … excited for the coming year. New Year’s has always been kinda meh for me: they either meant another year of slogging it out at school, waiting for my life to start, or another year where I had no idea where I’m headed.

This is an excerpt from my New Year’s Eve post in 2007:

I’m so fucking sick of caring.
468 calories from 3 scoops of ice-cream, 525 calories from a lunch of bread and scones, 486 calories from a breakfast of pizza?
Fuck it all. Fuck calories, dress sizes, flat tummies, skinny thighs, sharp noses. Outgoing, athletic, bronzed and confidently cool? That’s something I never will be. I’ll always be ugly, stumpy and miserable: a pinched-faced girl with an over-the-top obsession with calories, fats and her appearance.
It’s okay. I know I’m pathetic. I think I’m pathetic. To the extent that I think I hate myself. 
How is it that some girls can stand in front of the mirror, look at their bodies and shrug at their love handles, the pudge at their tummies, and their thighs glued to each other? Why can’t I? In what way am I lesser than them? In that they love themselves more than I appreciate myself?
It’ll be 2008 in about half an hour’s time. I don’t see what’s so great about it. It seems like I’m entering 2008 just as clueless as I have been in 2007.


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Oh yeah, I was a bright ray of sunshine back then. Must be all the food I was not eating that made me such a miserable, pinch-faced bitch.

But this time, it feels different. Like I have every power to change whatever I’m not satisfied with in my life, instead of sit on my ass and wait for life to happen to me. It’s an entire year of changes waiting to be made! And it’s not just because I’m off what I call the “starvation diet” now (which is the stupidest thing I have ever done – DO NOT do that to yourself ever).

Maybe it’s because we get more bigger picture-y as we grow older and stop zeroing in on the smaller stuff. When we were younger, in our teens, every bit of emotion and experience is heightened, and what people say to us or think of us becomes blown out of proportion. We place too much stock in these things, and when things go awry or fall short of our expectations we are slayed. It’s the end of the world for us, and we rant and weep about it, write emo poetry in the middle of the night, thinking we’ll never be happy again.

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Now, though, it just seems so stupid to fret over the things that don’t matter in the long run. A bite of French fry isn’t going to make me a whale (although more bites might), a bad day will be better after some sleep and a long swim, one piece of criticism doesn’t mean that the entire world hates me.

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I think you can only be as happy as you choose to. I was miserable then because I gave myself the excuse to. It’s because I’m not eating that I’m so cranky. It’s because I need to be in control that I’m not eating. (Which is ironic because I ended up spiralling even more out of control as a result.) Maybe the best we can do is be happy for ourselves, so that we can be happy for the people who matter the most to us.

We’re still one week away from year’s end, but I’m tacking this on my list of New Year’s goals (goals because the word resolutions is just begging for you to fall off the wagon right off the bat). What are your New Year’s goals? :0)