Operation Return – Prologue

As with usual “Personal” posts, I am slightly wary about sharing something that deep, for fear of losing – and especially on a topic I have been trying to (contradictorily) repress yet harp on, especially to those who would actually listen. However, writing in my diary can be slightly repetitive, and I like to let a very very small circle – the circle which form the essence of who I am – know. (As usual, I am writing with a few in mind – 4-5 this time, and you most probably would have received the hyperlink at some point because I cannot keep my fingers to myself when it comes to you.)

Furthermore, the reason to half-broadcast: some website states that to let something go is to face it fully in the face, and writing might actually help. At this stage, I am willing to give anything a go.

Warning: as I started typing, I allowed my heart and my fingers to take control. Probably not as inspiring as Georgiana Hyde-Lees scribbling though. Plus she had a few hours per day, I have to return to my dissertation after this.

(Why Prologue? – let me see what it is like after counselling. Maybe there will be Parts 2 and further.) 


An Attempt to Explain What it Felt Like

I have always been sensitive, and ever since I was a child I have always described it as both a gift and a curse, but kill me if I have to part with my sensitivity. As a result, I have also been attracted to more sensitive (and overlooked) fictional characters: 林黛玉 [1], Fanny Price, Anne Elliot. (Of course Chloe has to talk about books. Of course.)

Hence when certain chords are tugged and when I stepped out of numbness, I chiefly attributed that to sensitivity, though sensitivity has never reached to such a stage in the past, not even in the peak-times when it has generated so much creativity that I could just write non-stop (and also get schoolwork done).

However, sensitivity is a friend who knows when to pop up (and occasionally whine). This, I am afraid, does not. Suddenly one will wonder where the time has gone because one would just roll around in bed upon arriving home, not really focusing on anything, and only rising to work when it is slightly too late. Not that it really mattered, seemingly, because sleep was interrupted, just like meals (of course there would be snacking and midnight bites). The usual energy would be gone after keeping up with normalcy in a social context – with closer people I can actually be happy, though conversation might slip into dangerous territories, and there would be the usual worry of annoying people, since that happened in the past too, and at such stage I cannot afford to lose anybody close. Hints have surfaced since the beginning, as witnessed from blog posts such as A Semi-Open Letter of Essentially Everything, and Nearly Nothing and Realisation, Reminder, (Re)discovery, with tones a lot more pensive than the previous posts. A lot more personal as well, as if I could not focus on anything else. Moreover, not only a lack of focus – but also a fear of my mind slipping when I was completely alone, which was a big problem personally since I used to love being on my own.

What really woke me up to this was my monthly book catalogue. If I could finish 9000 pages in 3 days once while working on an essay (and was given a great grade!), then my current log is a great indicator of how much I could not focus. Nor has writing been progressing, except diary- and letter-writing. Or the compulsory academic writing, which I have been graded with an acceptable grade, though not enough, by personal standards. The most successful written format throughout the year was proofreading – maybe due to the interaction with an individual (not specific) behind, which pushed me back to my usual more-critical self.

But most of the time it did feel like I was not stepping on firm ground – those who listened became oases, and I clung to those, anything to instil that brief sanity. One more of an oasis than the rest as well – thank you. I cannot stress that enough, and I hope after reading this you will be smiling because I am fighting my way back. (Not that you will see the end of me, I will just be more fun.)



I did not expect myself to understand Hamlet that fully before. Being impenetrable to some, being difficult to quite a lot. Critics have commented on Hamlet being a dissatisfied and angry youth, but then nobody really commented on a sense of numbness. However, to get to that stage one has to be slightly numb at least. Not sure whether I have reached that stage, but I understand Hamlet. Especially when he has been crowned with adjectives that were heavier than his crown. And less deserved.

Numb – except that very very small tingling of fear: because if I do not pull myself out I will be losing more people who I truly care about. And it is not something smiley faces can help.

My previous therapist asked me what was the main reason I sought help. I told her simply that I could not lose the few people who are sticking with me. But then I guess because they remind me of a version of me that can return. And that is what I am doing. I am returning.

For those who have faith in me, [2] but mainly, for me.


[1] I am sorry, Miss Chan, I really cannot bring myself to admire 薛寶釵. She will be great as a friend but then not as a fictional character. Not that you will actually read this so this is just for me to laugh really.

[2] I have been cheesy in my thank-yous to you probably and repeatedly. So I will not write another again, but then do know how grateful I am.

Reading Challenge

July 2017

1 2
A Manual for Heartbreak, Cathy Rentzenbrink Make Your Bed: Little things that can change your life… and maybe the world, William H. McRaven
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, Sabrina Mahfouz (ed.) European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe, Fatima El-Tayeb A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Anna Quindlen A Community of Europeans? Transnational Identities and Public Spheres, Thomas Risse
Essays in Love, Alain de Botton
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Relationships, The School of Life The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
When the Hills Ask for Your Blood: A Personal Story of Rwanda and Genocide, David Belton Dubliners, James Joyce
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Chemistry, Weike Wang Standard Deviation, Katherine Heiny
Reading Challenge

June 2017

1 2 3 4
Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan Alice in Brexitland, Lucien Young, Leavis Carroll The Trouble with History, Adam Michnik How to Write Good, Ryan Higa
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Brand New Ancients, Kate Tempest Europe, or the Infinite Task: A Study of a Philosophical Concept, Rodolphe Gasche
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
The House of Names, Colm Toibin Utopianism: A Very Short Inroduction, Lyman Tower Sargent The New Mrs Clifton, Elizabeth Buchan The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid The Art of Reading, Damon Young
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Homelands: Women’s Journeys Across Race, Place and Time, Patricia Justine Tumang, Jenesha de Rivera, eds. How to Forgive When You Can’t Forget, Charles Klein Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century, Paul Collier
26 27 28 29 30
You Should Have Left., Daniel kehlmann King Charles III, Mike Bartlett
Reading Challenge

May 2017

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel P. Huntington 房思琪的初戀樂園, 林奕含 Orientalism, Edward W. Said
The Quest for Silence, Henry Wilmer
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
The Shape of Ideas, Grant Snider Pooh and the Psychologists, John Tyerman WIlliams Pooh and the Second Millennium (or Pooh and the Ancient Mysteries or Pooh and the Magicians), John Tyerman Williams The Other Heading: Reflection on Today’s Europe, Jacques Derrida
Pooh and the Philosophers, John Tyerman Williams Derrida: A Very Short Introduction, Simon Glendinning
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction, Robert C. Allen An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?”, Immanuel Kant The Wave, Morton Rhue The Empathy Trap, Tim McGregor, Jane McGregor Christian Democracy and the Origins of the European Union, Wolfram Kaiser Sex with Shakespeare: Here’s Much to Do With Pain, but More with Love, Jillian Keenan
Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move, Reece Jones The Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant
The Lure of Technocracy, Jurgen Habermas Political Writings, Immanuel Kant, H.S. Reiss (ed.)
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World, Jerry Brotton Sulphuric Acid, Amélie Nothomb A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
29 30 31
Habermas: A Very Short Introduction, James Gordon Finlayson
Reading Challenge

April 2017

1 2
Women and Gender in Islam, Leila Ahmed
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam, Fatima Mernissi The Selfish Pig’s Guide to Caring, Hugh Marriott (stopped at 32%) European Union: From Hitler to de Gaulle, Hans A. Schmitt When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi The Chaos of Belonging, K. Y. Robinson
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
The Meanings of Rights: The Philosophy and Social Theory of Human Rights, Costas Douzinas, Conor Gearty (eds) Quiet Power: Growing Up as an Introvert in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain How to Fall in Love, Cecelia Ahern
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka The Hero’s Adventure, Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyes (The Power of Myth) Love and the Goddess, Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyes (The Power of Myth) On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, Jacques Derrida
Masks of Eternity, Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyes (The Power of Myth) Headspace: The Psychology of City Living, Paul Keedwell
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
The Foreigner: Two Essays on Exile, Richard Sennett (reread)
Reading Challenge

March 2017

1 2 3 4 5
      Siddhartha, Herman Hesse     Wicked, Gregory Maguire
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
The Happiness of Blond People: A Personal Meditation on the Dangers of Identity, Elif Shafak The Heart and the Fist, Eric Greitens       The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan Liberalism, Community and Culture, Will Kymlicka
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
  Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, Haemin Sunim When We Were Very Young, A.A. Milne  
  The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era, Seyla Benhabib       Now We Are Six, A.A. Milne  
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
He’s Just Not that Into You, Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot Smoke, John Berger, Selçuk Demirel The Accusation: Forbidden Stories From Inside North Korea, Bandi The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, Mark Manson The Te of Piglet, Benjamin Hoff
The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from Islamic State, Samer
Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? Susan Moller Okin
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
Multiculturalism without Culture, Anne Phillips The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins Multiculturalism, Religion and Women: Doing Harm by Doing Good? Marie Macey
Reading Challenge

February 2017

1 2 3 4 5
Multiculturalism, Charles Taylor Adultery, Paulo Coelho A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea, Melissa Fleming On Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Poets’ Celebration, Hannah Crawforth, Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
Who Are We – And Why Should it Matter in the 21st Century, Gary Younge
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Nutshell, Ian McEwan I’ve Got Your Number, Sophie Kinsella There Ain’t No Blacks in the Union Jack, Paul Gilroy Justice and the Politics of Difference, Iris Marion Young
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur The Course of Love, Alain de Botton
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
The Last Utopia, Samuel Moyn Shtum, Jem Lester
27 28
Things that Can & Cannot Be Said, John Cucsack, Arundhati Roy