Keep your eyes closed, we can live in a reverie.

  Dreaming. It's been one thing, for sure, that has always fascinated me. I've been prone to recurring, or bizarre dreams for the past few weeks. In all honesty, I don't mind them. I happen to fancy a truly awe-inspiring dream every now and again. They're food for thought, that I try to not to devour, but digest restfully. I often scrutinize my dreams and conclude that it's all a make-believe reality. The subconscious realm of pure slumber intertwined with a pinch of fantasy. The tender promise of a simultaneous union. They are all worth the hours of tossing in bed. Let's not forget the ever-present twisted elements that are part of the package, or the deceivingly sweet enclave that often makes us question how and why
  They sometimes envelop me in otherworldly assurance, in the arms of the familiar. Sometimes they do not. The naiveté that has me on a high can send me into a swift descent. However, it's fact that the magnitude of dreams are incomprehensible - perhaps that's what makes them so enchanting. I am blessed in this life, that's for sure. Though occasionally, I'd much rather dreamtime than anything this teeming reality could ever offer me. It presents me with the possibilities I've longed for, even the ones that become deliciously true.

  What about you? What do your dreams tell you? 


Baby we're outside of time.

Habitual languor is
a blessing, as i deem
A concave of a dream
The nullity caving in
The surrounding love enfolds
and tells me, "it's okay,
to feel this way"
A concept so arcane
almost spineless,
met with sheer cordiality
These bloodshot eyes,
tears of sentimentality
they make way for the new
sense of consolation
Our nameless quest
to find the beauty in the dark
We're in this upheaval
together we'll embark

  It seems I've begun to take a liking to word spills. Why's that?

  To be frank, I'm not sure either. Perhaps I haven't been idle enough to convolute my thoughts. Perhaps the contentment in my fragile frame is steadily rising. Perhaps I'm in the happiest place I have ever been for the longest while. Though bittersweet, I've found my footing. I don't feel like I'm sinking anymore. I simply don't have to pretend. I have the promise of some of the fondest people, and genuine things to look forward to.
  You know what's funny? As cliché as it sounds, music brought us together. The past three weeks contain memories that will surely be hard to forget. These are the days I stuck around for, the days I didn't see coming but brought so much joy. The days I'm confident of, ones I didn't need to feign. The sunsets and shows and willingness to embrace have been worth it. I'm sure of it. These are the instances where we took our stand, fought time, and came out triumphant at last.


Forthright Series #1 // BENITA.

  Meet Benita.

  With a 9-year span of knowing each other, I can safely say she's my best friend. She's always there to accommodate me during my frequent visits to Singapore – turning bouts of idleness into bursts of fun. She's also the only person I know who can simultaneously juggle an incredulous gig life, fathom things in depth, pull of anything, stay grounded and maintain an immaculate aesthetic in between. (Yep, she's deserving of that word – which, trust me, I don't use in vain.) Twice I've had the pleasure of us seeing live music together, with both of those occasions inclusive of getting close to Phoenix and Slow Magic.
  But enough of the band banter, who we're really getting close to here is Benita. Apart from music as a binding factor, Benita is incredibly thoughtful and down-to-earth. She's the novel cool gal that everyone would want to get to know, and should. She holds a special place in my heart like no other, perhaps for the fact that we're naturally on the same wavelength, or for our long-lived friendship. So, in favour of kicking off this interview series, we spent a day putting our harboured brainchilds into action. I took over the camera (of which she's usually behind) and couldn't be happier to capture her through my own eyes.


Tell us something most people wouldn't know about you. Hmm, I think most of my friends would know this but (hi Rachel’s readers) I suffer from insomnia – and the longest time I've went without sleep is 52 hours!

A theme song for your current modus vivendi... go. Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie... you get the drift.

What is most important to you?
I think right now what I treasure most is sanity. Although it's such a basic facet of life we don't normally think about since we are constantly active, it's the underlying foundation necessitated for our actions. Stress just culminates and internalises in me; it's hard to keep track of time and hit the balance that everyone desires, to push through the gruelling torment that is A levels. My sanity has been kept in check (and sometimes oppositely pushed to the brink) by Photography, which I take as a co-curricular activity in school and as a hobby. Even in the art form I love and enjoy, it's hard to discern when it's helping or hurting me. My sanity is definitely of core importance now.
What's your ultimate strength, and underlying weakness?
*nervously laughs* Let's start with weakness, since it's much easier to self-deprecate than to barrel through my doubts on having any strengths. Hmm.. I think my underlying weakness is excessively caring about what others think of me, something I think many people can relate to! To be honest I think it becomes quite clear when I look at my Instagram encapsulating the care I take to curate and assemble my ‘feed’. I'm not particularly sure why I bother to brush through my profile with a fine tooth comb to delete non-‘aesthetically pleasing’ photos that don't fit into the theme when it causes me to feel imperfect. I think unconsciously, I care about the facade (yes, facade) I put up on social media even though I don't want to. I tend to accredit my meticulousness in maintaining my feed to maybe one day becoming a photographer, with Instagram as a tool to gain acclaim and recognition, but lets be fair  it's probably stemming from something more conceited hahaha *wink*. Even when I was younger, my mother was worried for me when I took up painting as I was a perfectionist of sorts, wallowing in sadness at any negative comments on my work. So it has probably metamorphosized into my social media frenzy, which is something I can control.

*thinks for 10 minutes* I think my ultimate strength is the root of my weakness... Haha sorry I can't think of anything else! I think my perfectionism is a double edged sword. It's an intrinsic part of everything I do since I truly believe that if I were to start on any task, I should make it flawless (like Beyonce, as the Internet heralds). Even in my studies, my teachers don’t mind when I miss lessons due to insomnia because they know that I’m trying my hardest and value my education. Also, it means that I spend 1 hour editing 1 photo of us from our shoot just to make it look good – ayyyy you got to get that profile picture!

'Keep your heart away for your mental health...'  agree or disagree with Last Dinos?
(Last Dinos my babes.) I would say yeno (mix of yes & no) because it's such a complicated mess to untangle. This year has personally been a flurry of new experiences and emotions, and that has definitely changed my outlook on mental health – unfortunately personally suffering from a disorder, as I recently found out at a recent psych visit. Well, I thought I wanted to get into a relationship with someone for the first time in my life this year but I wasn't ready feeling an onset of apprehension and he didn't take it too well, culminating in a rather heated verbal exchange. I definitely had enough on my mind during that tumulus period with piled homework and newfound responsibility thrusted onto me – and feelings just complicated everything immeasurably.

But, this is a huge but(t) (like all pop artistes nowadays *see what I did there*), the heart can see past troubles when we are mentally torn to find any remaining hope after self-destruction. It stems from the love we receive from close friends and loved ones who I can open up to indiscriminately, when my mind runs wild with bad thoughts, just as I’ve done with you this year. As much as I hate to be sentimental sometimes, I’m so glad and blessed to be surrounded by people like you Rachel, because your openness, kindness and abundant care for me and the rest of your friends have saved me multiple times. When my mind was blocked and barraged with 7 page history essays, literature assignments and internal pressure to my breaking point, my feelings of acceptance and love received from loved ones helped me push through to overcome barriers and obstacles. I don't think I’d be able to survive until now without heart being the root cause for my problems and in diametric opposition, being my saving grace.
Why do you think people shy away from the topic of mental health?
It's the stigma, the diverse spectrum that everyone’s experience is different and the feeling that no one understands when you have it. Before August, I hadn't told anyone about my thoughts and feelings that felt suffocating  until one day, I hit my breaking point with the internal pressure as too much to handle. Telling someone about my mental issues is a huge deal, the value being insurmountable in trust and love. Unfortunately, the first person I trusted broke it, and ultimately revealed to me his/her(trying to be vague here) true self of insensitivity and even, if it's not too harsh to say, apathy. He/she kept pressing for why I didn't tell him/her beforehand, ignoring the fact that I wasn't ready before and had not told a single soul. The tone felt entitled, and made me feel guilty even though I knew I shouldn't have felt that. It was a prime example of the barrier I think others like me experience when opening up, with he/she even proclaiming that they don't understand why people get depressed. The commonly heard phrases ‘cheer up you're not depressed’, ‘only you are saying you're depressed’ or ‘it's probably just a teenage phase’ really hinders most of us to talk about it because of some seemingly insignificant words. It makes me feel as if my problems aren't real, and that people would just think I’m seeking attention, or whining.

The worst part is that I don’t think my experience in opening up about mental health is unique, with the stigma lingering even today. The feeling of hurt and betrayal is still present, and it affects my trust I place in friends nowadays. It's in our human nature to judge, and knowing that really hinders me from talking about it  choosing to relegate it to the back of my mind. I don't want to feel like I'm a burden to people even when they don't think I am, and it is this self-consciousness of being an outlier that makes me feel uncomfortable. The irony is that I’m fine telling this to the Internet because it feels like I’m protected by the window of my screen. Maybe my thoughts on this could help someone and assure them that they're not alone. Seek help if you're experiencing any bad thoughts, even anonymously if you have to, because handling this by yourself would only make it worse. (Whooops, sidetracked and a really long answer, but I do think this is really important.)


Music... it's a colossal part of you and your life. What exactly does it mean to you?
It's such a big part of my life and I don't even know how to pinpoint its true meaning succinctly. I think it's an emotional outlet not only for the artistes, but for the listeners, to relate and feel indescribable emotions when we let the words and tunes flow into our ears. I feel an ineffable rush of emotions, usually happiness, unless of course I'm creating a *certain* playlist for sad occasions, and relief. It's my heartbeat when I’m doing insufferable homework to cheer me on, especially since I tend to sing along and headbang to songs when studying math and history. It's my constant amigo on public transport and it's a big part of train culture now where we all live in our own world of music on board. It gives me a rush and push that is paralleled to coffee (or what I’ve heard since I don't drink it).

I've been saved countless times by music that I can relate to in perplexing points in my life that I didn't know how to convey in words or speak up to my friends and relatives. Although I didn't expect myself to like a band like Twenty One Pilots before I listened to them (especially when I heard them on the radio and changed the station immediately *sorry*) their lyrics really spoke to me this year and the fanbase is truly beautiful in my opinion, with most having gone through truly tough times and overcoming them with dark lyrics which in turn uplifted them. Music is such a vital form of communication to me. Even in church, singing Hillsong washes a sense of calm over me.

Concerts are always the highlight of my year (forgetting the painful part of desperately looking for people to go with me), and it's like a constant countdown to the feelings of release and catharsis at the event. I've actually recently mustered the courage to make friends at concerts, audience and even band members, and they're now some of the best people I know! It's also nice to have a community of people you can discuss or rave with about a significant interest of yours, and mine is music. I've also recently shot concerts and I think it's my favourite form of photography because of the energy in the band and crowd, as well as the lens flares and the colours in the lighting! I definitely live for the high of music, and my parents don't mind it since Singapore is generally safe with, although pushy, okay crowds. I can't imagine how much I've spent on concerts though and I don't think I want to know!

What is one song (or more, if you must) that can lift your spirits, continuously without fail? 
It's definitely going to be a list hahah! Can I just make a playlist for you? *after 1 hour* Dear lord it's 208 songs. This is a comprehensive list of my favourite music, just for you. (+ CLICK HERE for it's not my fault I'm not happy playlist)

Is it possible to name the total amount of musicians you've seen/met on both hands? I'll try! // San Cisco, Last Dinosaurs, Ra Ra Riot @ Camp Symmetry 2013 // Two Door Cinema Club, Lucy Rose, Joe Brooks, The Sam Willows, Obedient Wives Club, Lost Weekend, The Jungle Giants, Lauren Mayberry from CHVRCHES, The Drums, Slow Magic, and most recently Circa Waves!
What are your most memorable encounters with bands/artists?
My most memorable moments are the ones where I can coherently talk despite being starstruck / get complimented by people I admire  / make lasting memories. One of them was meeting Bombay Bicycle Club  and wow was the hype to even get the chance to meet them huge. I joined multiple contests for it. Through the contests, I actually made 2 friends, 1 of which I treasure and have gotten to know as one of my cherished friends and the other as a friendly fellow concert goer who I see quite frequently at concerts. I've been listening to Bombay ever since their first album dropped and my life (or music tastes) changed forever as they were one of the formative bands to introduce me to this whole new genre. Once I heard the news of winning the meet and greet contest, I was just jumping saying “Oh my god” repeatedly in public. To show my ultimate fan-liness, I drew them for 6 hours and gave it to the band as a present. That was ultimately the best thing as Jamie (guitarist) & Suren (drummer) looked at it in awe and said “Wow that's actually the best fan art we’ve seen. (jokingly) You can imagine the number of shitty ones we get” and to my self-depreciating personality, it was a confidence boost. Bombay was so friendly to everyone and remembered me after the show when me and 10 other people waited at the back doors for them, saying “Oh hey it's you again! Your card was spectacular”// Yup. In short: made friends, band complimented me, I was internally screaming.

The other experience was just plain fun at a gig for the album debut of a local band Lost Weekend. The gig was actually sold out and I tweeted about my dismay. To my fortune, the drummer from another local band Obedient Wives Club (who I’ve had lovely encounters with and is an all round great person) (the band was opening for Lost Weekend) pulled strings to get me on the guest list! I felt so grateful and slightly guilty about the fact of getting in last minute, and not paying for the gig, so I decided to buy cupcakes for the band. They were genuinely so humble and surprised at the fact that I bought them gifts/food and thanked me. The lead singer offered me her beer wanting to thank me and I awkwardly said no with a laugh but in the end I chugged a quarter of it hahah it's one of the most pleasant gig memories I've had! They went on to put on an amazing show.


What are the ingredients for a great photo?
Passion + concept! I work solely on these two factors. I think photos need to be well thought-out in terms of conceptualizing the image, and the angles/subjects need to be framed beforehand, so every moment can become an opportune moment especially at gigs and sports events.

Care to share some of your favourite moments on/off camera?
I don't have many particular/interesting moments, but one of them was when I was hanging out with friends at Chinatown and they were particularly camera shy. So after I took some photographs, one of them chased me to delete them (I didn’t) and we had a camera battle, to which they took one of the worst photos Ive seen of me, which is an impressive feat considering the multitude of bad pictures I've seen of myself.  I mostly just enjoy shooting with friends as we bond/see another side to each other!
Recently though at Circa Waves, it was a tough event to shoot as halfway through it seemed that the crowd I was encased in was sparring. They moshed intensely and my lens (thankfully borrowed and already in need of change) hit objects and heads multiple times. I thought my camera was going to disintegrate. It was an insanely fun crowd though!

What do you believe in? Myself (deep down).

If you don't mind sharing, what is one thing you have endured and as a result walked away stronger?
My battle with insomnia, which I'm still enduring. I've trained myself to cope with the intense pressure of school, my social life and outside commitments for the past 5 years with insomnia, which in hindsight is an amazing feat. My teachers used to worry (and still do) at my coping mechanisms but I've delivered higher than average results with hard work, determination and a circle of supportive friends  whom consol me and collect my homework when I don't attend school. In Secondary 4, my attendance was a mere 40% and I've come out well in the O level examinations, going into my school of choice. I've proven wrong and beaten nay-sayers and insensitive teachers, and that feels so rewarding.

Where would you like to be years from now?
Photographing events/concerts/subjects professionally (my wishful thinking), getting into a dream college, going to more gigs and hopefully being happy in the process.




"Expect the unexpected"
Plains as far as the eye can see
A ray of light, bursting from a prism

Overpriced ice cream, dripping amity 
Diluted smoke or the lack thereof
Between the tendrils gracing 
Binary effort mapped in your palms

Strangers lodged on a bus
Glass in the park
Zestful vibes all round
 An everlasting panorama in my head

Fireworks, proffering surprised cries
Extended, elementary grins
Night drives and distant roads
Oh, how this feels sublime

The night, it stretches on
The whirring engine lingers
I feel the wind in my hair
   Up in the hills elation crept in
   Is there anywhere else I'd rather be?
   Shy away from that solipsism
   I laugh along happily
   Drifts comfortably up above
   Your face, heart racing
   Another face, another charm
   A faded film picture, of us
   Should rightfully make you happy as a lark
   Come the soothing conflict of sound
   I'll dance and sing and hope instead
   Casting awe and elucidating dim-lit skies
   Contented with all your losses and your wins
   Take what's gifted, what's bestowed
   The day is seized, it's finally mine
   A rhapsody of that I'm fond
   Scenic chills disperse my fingers
   Tonight, I haven't a single care

more photos // "you caught the light"
  (Here's to a well-spent, spontaneous seventeenth)



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