bliss

2016-12-05

a snapshot by Robin – I love what he captured here: me looking 100% unglamorous, but happy and comfortable

Today was amazing. Yesterday’s tears and overwhelming loneliness seem like a surreal nightmare to me now.

I spent the whole day – from getting up at 10am till 9pm – with my flatmate Robin and his close friend “C” (he appears at the bottom of yesterday’s post). It’s the first time I voluntarily spent so much time with someone (besides my boyfriend) during a day this year.

In the morning, I look amazingly fresh with my pajama pants on. My hair’s like a bird’s nest on my head (“voluminous“, Robin says while laughing) and traces of sleep and exhaustion are on my bare face. But I don’t care. These are people I’m comfortable around. They’re their random selves around me and haven’t been trying to hide their true character either. So I don’t mind showing them my raw me. There is no reason to hide.

After breakfast – some tummy-filling banana pancakes topped with hot cherries and maple syrup – we move a couple of meters onto the grubby second-hand couches where we laze around for the next four hours, alternately fooling around, talking, being silent, photographing, laughing.

Shortly before four, the sun is going to set soon, we decide to get some fresh air and take my daily photo outside. It’s time to make myself more presentable. I get rid of the bird’s nest. Concealer, powder, mascara, lipstick – I see a different person in the mirror. And I feel different. Unapproachable.

I don’t look like the plain, nice girl from next door anymore, more like the superficial-party-girl-persona I acquired in Uruguay four years ago in a desperate and successful attempt to protect myself. Try your best to look great and hide your vulnerability behind it. It used to be a mask that makes me self-confident, but over time, it has become a part of me as well. Nowadays I simply enjoy looking a bit more decent every now and then.

Feeling self-conscious, I enter the living room again. C sits with his back to me and for some reason, I feel like I might startle him with my change of look, so I say “I feel like a different person” before I appear in his field of vision. He gives me one of his intense looks. He seems thoughtful; I feel scrutinized. “What?” – “You also look like a different person“, he says laughing. I don’t ask whether it’s a good or bad thing.

In the forest – my beloved forest, I’ve missed it so much! – the guys fool around with the camera while I’m getting ready for my self-portrait. I take it with the help of Robin while C is watching. It feels a bit awkward, ‘performing’ in front of them. For me, taking self-portraits is often a very intimate process (though it depends on the photo) and most of the time, I feel ashamed for my project, afraid of seeming self-absorbed. But when I trust someone and think they won’t judge, I let them be there.

monika-jia-rui-099
Today’s self-portrait, taking with the help of Robin. Look at the difference compared to the photo above.

Our tummies signal hunger on our way back and we decide to have dinner at C’s place. Just like he did in the morning, we quickly fetch missing ingredients from our nearby apartment. Everything is casual and spontaneous, and I love this – sharing this comfortable everyday life, being able to do everything and nothing together without having to make plans.

After dinner, we stay at C’s place for another three hours. I lie on the sofa as if I were at home, curled up like an embryo, surrounded by a lot of cozy pillows. We look at old photos (Robin’s and my favourite activity lately) and laugh and laugh about how we used to look. I wonder whether it’s possible to pinpoint the beginning of a friendship or whether it’s a gradual process.

∙•∙

After today, I’m sure: No matter what my doubts told me yesterday, I’m not alone. I could have told one of them about my breakdown and they’d have listened and supported me. But yes, the timing was bad. It was a busy event, they had to focus on something and I didn’t want to distract them. And their busyness stupidly made me feel unnecessary. But I’ll never let the negativity in my mind convince me again in this aspect: I’m not alone.

18 Comments
    1. Honesty is always the best policy. No matter what, you’re never going to be able to please everybody or make everybody like you or what you’re doing. People do seem to feel every artist is fair game to be a prick to and that can be pretty isolating at times. The thing is, as long as you’re happy with you and the path you’re on, that’s really all that matters. There will be dark times ahead, there always is but if you maintain that central core of steel… it might bend a bit but it won’t break and you’ll be stronger for it.

      1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment! :) I agree, honesty is the best policy – but sometimes it’s so much easier to pretend for a little while, just to protect yourself from possible hurt (though, of course, it’s not a long-term solution). But you’re right, the most important thing is that I’m okay with myself :)

        1. This is going to sound weird but I used to play competitive paintball. The hardest thing most people have to get over to play the game effectively is that it’s going to hurt. Once you accept the pain and move through it, you can do great things. I don’t know if you’re familiar with, “The Tools.” But it’s a pretty great book and covers a lot of how to move on through pain and strife. Good luck, it’s worth it to keep on going.

    1. <3 Both of your portraits are lovely; they might reveal different aspects of the self, but they're equally wonderful! Sometimes posing for portraits can feel performative, but that's not always a bad thing-ah, your work attests to that! Vulnerability, like the rawness first image or impromptu emotional expressions, is what helps foster connections with others, though…there are merits to both hehe. Thanks for sharing, Monika!!! (Also, your food descriptions made me hungry lool)

      1. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment, Lu! <3 I agree, vulnerability helps us connect with others, that's what I'm trying to do here haha
        Your writing and art are amazing, I feel so honored you're following me :) and haha the breakfast was really delicious, you should make it too :)) have a lovely week! x

    1. I wonder, could these two versions of yourself be spilling over into your photography? Do you find that your photos are emanating from the more controlled you, possibly reducing their approachability? I’m asking this because I know you’ve expressed displeasure with your photography lately, and the divergence between your two ‘selves’ seems to be an important part of this post.

      1. I love your thoughtful comments, Josh! I’ve never thought of it, you’re asking very interesting questions. Maybe they do come from a more controlled ‘me’ since I subconsciously think “it’ll be published on Facebook, it has to be somehow presentable” – so I decided to stop sharing most of my stuff there, giving me space to experiment, maybe the rawer ‘me’ will emerge in my photography eventually, just like in the last two blogposts :) time will show us, I guess.
        Have a wonderful week and take care! :)

    1. It’s always a relief to know you have people you can count on. Both those pictures of you are great in their own way. It’s possible, like you said, to have all these different people inside you, from the quiet introspective one to the glamed-up party girl (or artsy girl). I think it’s what makes us interesting as human beings.

      1. Thank you, Arielle! <3 yes, though it's a bit awkward sharing your first crisis when you haven't known each other for so long - kinda like the first step for a deeper connection or something? I hope you get what I mean :D
        and yeah, it's really fascinating that we have all those different aspects of ourselves in us. I think the interesting thing that day was that even though I wasn't putting a mask on when I made myself more presentable, it felt a bit fake (and thus uncomfortable) since my unglamorous me has fit so perfectly and felt natural. Like normally it's vice-versa, I feel uncomfortable when people see me "the way I woke up" :D

    1. Sorry to hear you had a breakdown…As for the pics, as usual, you’re lovely. But I like the smiling, more approachable-looking one better.

      1. Thank you for your kind feedback! :) haha when I saw the laughing one, my first reaction was “oh my god, I look so horrible” – but then I realised that it’s not as bad as I thought and I came to like what was captured :)

        1. Glad you do. Most of the time, I don’t like seeing myself in pics, and definitely not online, so I really choose what I share, he he…

          Insecurity is really something everyone must work on, methinks.

    1. The essence of your beauty, captured in photograph!

    1. I love your self portraits. Cosigning on how awkward it can be to have someone watch. Haha I can’t even bear to have almost anyone there except for my kids! Lol

      1. Thank you so much, Cara <3 haha you gradually get used to it, though!
        Happy New Year to you and your lovely family! <3

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