I’m drawing again

I’m drawing again. I thought I had retired from it, but here I am, with a brand-new pen tablet, drawing with excitement. It’s exhilarating to rediscover a hobby I loved so dearly.

I first began drawing thirteen years ago, making fan art of the anime La Corda d’Oro. I was lovestruck both by the male characters and by the the reverse harem (hehe), and so I spent my time doodling starry-eyed men as my head swam with their faces.

During university I tried my hand at digital art. My mom bought me a pen tablet, and since then I feverishly drew my favourite characters – this time, from video games. Persona 4, Suikoden Tactics, Tenchu: I drew fan art for hours on end and posted the final products on DeviantArt. Being part of an art community encouraged me to draw even more. I even gained friends from the site, and some of these friendships continue to this day.

There was a problem, though: I always created art out of envy. The illustrations I made stemmed from my desire to copy the style of more experienced artists. I was insecure and frustrated; I wanted to get good quickly and be on par with the masters. My mindset made being in DeviantArt toxic, as I saw better art everywhere around me – art made by people who were my age, sometimes even younger than me. I quit after three years.

What made me come back after a decade of doing nothing? It was a fan art I saw just three weeks ago. I was struck by how the use of colours made the character look so sensual. I don’t know why it inspired me so much; maybe it was my subconscious’ way of saying that I shouldn’t neglect I skill I actually have. It only took another week before I bought a new pen tablet.

Currently figuring out how to colour. I’m using a photo from this site as reference.

I’ve only been practicing again for a few days, and my progress is slow. My understanding of anatomy is laughable, and my colouring is poor. I’ve come to accept now, though, that developing a skill requires effort. It will take consistent practice to get anywhere. Optimism is important, too: even if my art is crappy at the beginning, it doesn’t equivalent to my being a failure.

Wish me luck as I venture once again on this land! And if you are rediscovering a hobby, yourself, do let me know. It would be nice to know people who are on the same boat as I am.

Laughing in the face of fear

*This is a blog post from Medium dated June 2018. It remains one of my favourite posts, so I’m putting it down here.

I’ve been afraid of deep water for as long as I could remember. Seeing the vastness and depth of the ocean, its abyssal waters holding more secrets than revelations, I know how much power it possesses. It’s commanding, it’s mysterious, it’s reckless. It could seize me, swallow me whole, and keep me under its depths forever if it willed.

I was perfectly fine living with this fear; I didn’t have any intention of engaging in anything that involved deep water, after all. But then I met my partner who loved the sea — and he invited me to go diving with him.

I was eager to please. I said yes with a smile, but internally I was freaking out.

Facing the ocean

Riding the boat heading to our dive site, Halik Reef, gave me a mix of emotions. There was the fear, agitation, and nervousness, but there was also the excitement of trying something out for the first time. It helped that my partner was thrilled to explore the sea once more. It helped even more that a dive master accompanied me all throughout the dive.

Our boat stopped and our dive master stood. We were given final instructions on how to use our equipment, counted three to one, and went down the sea.

The sea was clear, so clear that we could see as far as 30 meters. Already we could see fish swimming 12 meters below us, feeding and playing on the corals. But that wasn’t what I was focused on: I found it disconcerting to breathe underwater for the first time. I had to get used to using my mouth as my sole source of oxygen, and to adjusting the pressure in my ears as we went deeper down. I was a human out of her element; my body told me it didn’t belong at sea.

I reminded myself a few times to not freak out, lest we end our diving session early.

Under the sea

The dive master, my partner, and I began exploring once we were able to go down a depth of 12 meters. The first thing I noticed was the colors: there were so many colors everywhere I looked. They were in the corals, in the fish, and in the rays of light as it danced in the sea. The colors were swirling around me, and I held a firmer grip on our dive master to make sure he stayed with me while I observed.

We went around Halik Reef in a circle, and though the sense of uneasiness never left me, I felt less anxious as we explored. I had never seen so many sea animals my whole life: there were sharks, blue tangs, lionfish, pufferfish, clownfish, butterflyfish… there were too many species for me to remember; the reef was bursting with them.

The highlight, though, was the turtles. My partner has a love affair with turtles and has been fascinated with them since he was young. We saw two in the dive: one feeding on plants in an area surrounded by corals, and the other swimming in as we were about the leave. The dive master and I excitedly motioned him to the former, and there was pure fascination in his eyes as he saw a turtle for the first time. We watched it for a longer time than most of the other sea life we saw; it was transfixing to see it eat.

We stayed in the sea for 40 minutes, wherein after we got up the boat and talked about the dive. Both the dive master and my partner told me I was incredibly lucky to have such a good first dive. As for me, I was mostly happy about not freaking out!

Facing the fear

Was there anything that I took away from the dive? Yes, two things. One was that I’d go further than I would for my partner. The second was that I’ve been in my safe zone for too long — so long that I no longer desired to go out of it.

The second was difficult to deal with. I’ve long been aware that I was no longer as curious as I was before, but to witness it in action was a hard-hitter. I knew I never would have faced my fear of the water had someone not pushed me to.

During the course of our two-week vacation, my partner and I snorkeled and dived one more time. In both instances I still felt the same magnitude of fear. The fear of the water may be something that will stay long with me.

But perhaps facing your fears isn’t about conquering them, but about being able to live with them. And perhaps it’s what separates the child-like from the rest: they are able to laugh in the face of their fears, and live the life they wish to have.

And it’s who I aspire to be: a person who faces her fears, befriends them, and moves through life with a nervous but willing heart.

100 new experiences

Early this year, I found a list on the back of my journal that went all the way up to a hundred. Having no idea what I could have it as a list for (100 grocery items I need in the house? 100 must-use table topics?), I settled for “100 new things I did in 2020”. I knew from the beginning that it’d be asking for too much, but I wasn’t too bothered.

Three months on, I’ve still only listed down nine items, the last one being two weeks ago. At this rate, I’m sure I won’t fill up the list. Still, it feels satisfying to have some experiences written down. I have a tendency to forget how I spent my time, so I greatly enjoy being reminded through my journal.

Here are the new things I’ve done thus far:

  1. Get a matching tattoo with my family – this is extremely special because it involves my family (sans my dad, he doesn’t like needles!). We’ve been planning it for over a year, so to have it come to fruition was unforgettable and quite touching.

  2. Submit a proposal for freelance work – I’ve always liked the idea of freelancing, but I’ve never taken the first step of selling my skills. Finally submitting a proposal was satisfying, because it felt like I broke a wall. (By the way, the proposal was unsuccessful. But still, I already took the first step!)

  3. Attend a Toastmasters meeting – I’ve mentioned this here, with the goal of curbing my social anxiety. I plan on joining the club this month, which, once I accomplish, will be another first!

  4. Played petanque competitively – I don’t mean this in a professional way, no – I just played petanque with my boyfriend, hah. But he’s pretty athletic, so I felt competitive still. It was also my first time actually playing a full round of the sport, so there’s that.

  5. Cooked stir fry veggies – The first attempt, and a successful one, at that! Stir-frying veggies with garlic, pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and cornflour produces such good results. Eat it with rice and you’ve got a winner!

  6. Buy my own domain – you’re reading through that domain now!

  7. Made kale chips – This was a fail; it ended up so salty that it was inedible. Still, I tried. I’m keen on trying a whole lot more of new recipes, so many of the items on my list will be probably be cooking-related.

  8. Made a Fiverr account – bent on having my first freelancing gig, I joined Fiverr and created a decent profile. Fingers crossed that I’ll have the first gig by this year!

  9. Win three consecutive pool games against my boyfriend – My partner is a skilled pool player, having honed his skills from the many backpacker hostels he’s stayed in. I’ve always been frustrated over not winning against him. Imagine my joy when I finally did, and won three consecutive rounds of pool! (Okay, he wasn’t in his best form at that time and kept making mistakes, but still, victory tasted so sweet!)

What are your novel experiences thus far for the year? Let me know!