We’re exactly halfway through the first month of 2015 – where did the past two weeks disappear to – and that realisation alone was enough to frighten me into writing. I tell people I don’t believe in New Year resolutions, because some arbitrary calendar year transition shouldn’t be the driving force behind the changes in your life. Nevertheless, on January 1st, I pulled out my brush pen and a piece of paper, and scrawled down a list of things I wanted to do. Not for 2015! Just, you know, because. That’s what I told myself while I wrote use actual camera more often and make travel zines. Write more.
For the next two weeks I did everything but those things: read Infinite Jest, binge-watched anime, made Romesco sauce (which is the bomb), wandered around malls in Singapore wanting desperately to smash everything with a sledgehammer.
A week and a half ago I had actually made a start at writing out material for a travel zine. This one would be about that time last spring I spent a week travelling alone in Morocco. It would be about cats, snail soup and shared taxis. Most importantly, I would talk about the sexual harassment, because it had been a salient part of being there. I was excited about this, and made some notes, edited some photos. I read through my travel journal from last spring and fleshed out the anecdotes about the harassment. Then I closed the document and went back to surfing the Internet.
Basically, a bucket of doubts had upended itself on my head: I didn’t fall in love with Morocco, but could I possibly write an honest account of being there without being judgmental about that culture? Would people want to read something that boils down to ‘I went to Morocco, some parts were cool but some parts were kind of rubbish’? Did I really want to talk about that time I was lonely and miserable in Chefchaouen and this guy invited me to his place and how against my better judgment I accepted? (Nothing serious happened, but it was incredibly unpleasant nonetheless and I really don’t need to hear ‘I told you so’.) Did I have anything interesting or new to say about travelling in Morocco? (Probably not.) Why hadn’t I taken better photos? How did one even begin making a zine, let alone printing one? Actually, who the fuck wants to read anything I write?
This is the story of my life. I love writing but am scared of it. I’m terrified of putting myself out there, out here – which is strange. You’d think the internet makes these fears fairly irrelevant since one is shouting into an endless cacophony of information and me me me opinions. But I have lingering perfectionist tendencies and spend hours crafting sentences, deleting words, moving paragraphs – I’m doing it even now. Even the blandest essays I have written: secretly I still feel the ache of that little scrap of soul sewn into the fabric of those paragraphs, all the while questioning the purpose of all this babble. I have this terrible fear of having a negative opinion. I am also afraid of expressing my opinions and finding out at a later date that I no longer agree with myself, and even expressing that here feels so permanent. And we haven’t even gotten to the subject of food yet, which is really what this space is all about.
So what happens is that I close the documents, and I stop writing. I hate the fact that I avoid confrontation or controversy or just having an opinion in writing, and so I continue to put off posting in favour of wallowing in a pit of self-loathing.
It’s easier said than done, but this cannot go on.
One of things I wrote down on that lost list of resolutions (let’s just call a spade a spade) above was this: Not every piece has to be a production. It was a phrase that came to mind last year, when my older sister reminded me (as she does, periodically) that I should be writing more on this blog. So these things are the things I will keep telling myself when it comes to writing: It’s okay to write short pieces, or imperfect pieces. Opinions are not inherently bad. Write about what you love, and what you loathe (or perhaps just dislike).
In the interest of making good on my word – I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to making that zine about Morocco, but I will tell you this much today: the tagines I had were largely crap. Maybe I ended up in all the tourist traps (never trust Tripadvisor when it comes to food) or maybe you have to shell out more money than I was willing to spend for a tagine that isn’t an oil-slick of overly fatty meat or half-cooked vegetables and dry chicken breast (another cut of meat I hate), but goddamn it was stupidly difficult to find a good tagine.
On the other hand, the snail soup was herbal and delicious no matter where you went, and also a bit too salty but I not-so-secretly like that. One of the best things about Morocco was having freshly-squeezed orange juice every single day, except for that one hostel in Fez which, bizarrely, served up orange juice from concentrate. This made no sense, given the abundance of cheap, actual orange juice from stalls everywhere in the medina.
There. I feel a bit better now. I’ll tell you about some of the amazing street food another time.