One of These Days

September 1, 2008 at 5:52 pm | Posted in Life as I See It, Randomosities + Rubbish | 6 Comments
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‘The best thing about the future is that it only arrives a day at a time.’

I remember reading this somewhere ages ago (it was Abraham Lincoln who said it), and nodding and thinking to myself, ‘Yes, that’s true no doubt, but how boring.’

That was me being the highly dumb girl I was at fourteen, who used to think only thrill and speed amounted to an exciting life. Now that I am older and ahem, *clears throat* wiser, I do not agree with that speed-thrill-stuff philosophy at all.

In fact, I wholly appreciate the truth that future arrives a day at a time and that’s the best thing about it. I mean, what’s the fun in speeding down the road with everything passing by in a blur? That way, you’re always racing somewhere and in the end, you end up getting nowhere at all.

Still, it perturbs me to see the days passing by in a flash when I can’t get anything productive done. A feeling greatly aggravated when I get a book called Scientist Extraordinary: The Life and Scientific Work of Thomas Henry Huxley out of the library, and come across a passage like this:

…continued entries in Thoughts and Doings (Huxley’s little notebook in which he made irregular jottings when he was seventeen) bear witness:

June 20 [1841]
What have I done in the way of acquiring knowledge since January?
Projects begun:
1. German
2. Italian
3. To read Muller’s Physiology
4. To prepare for the matriculation examination at London University which requires knowledge of:-
(a) Algebra-Geometry
(b) Natural Philosophy …did not begin to read for this until April
(c) Chemistry
(d) Greek-Latin
(e) English History down to end of seventeenth century
(f) Ancient History
(g) English Grammar
5. To make copious notes of all things I read…I must adopt a fixed plan of studies…and let me remember this – that it is better to read a little and thoroughly, than cram a crude undigested mass into my head, though it be in great quantity.

…Bloody hell. I can’t imagine how anyone could be so assiduously brilliant.

To be honest, I think it is more inspiring than aggravating. Hmm, I can’t quite say that I would be able to study Greek, Latin and Italian simultaneously, with History, maths and chemistry thrown in (that would really drive anyone up the wall, unless they’re a genius like Huxley which is highly improbable).

My obsession for self-knowledge notwithstanding, it is high time that I got down to work, now that’s summer’s over and all. Wait, SUMMER’S GONE?!

…seriously, where did the last few months go? Oh dear, not Time again.
By the way, it turns out the evil thing is now sending me snide reminders and premonitions. I don’t know why, but ‘Time’ by Pink Floyd comes up every time on shuffle on WMP (Yes, I support Microsoft).

‘Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you,

No one told you where to run, you missed the starting gun’

And just I happened to be watching the rain when it came on today. On top of that, Anne Dillard goes out of her way to shout at me “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” from top of the page of the big book of quotations in the morning.

I swear, the Universe is rubbing it in my face.

(Annie, that was certainly a bit of worrying advice. What, am I going to end up spending the rest of my life with my nose buried in a book, living off chips and irn bru, and writing pointless entires like this? Oh, now I’m seriously disconcerted!)

But, but, but at the end of the day, it’s only a day at a time. Phew. And there are so many days. There’s birthday, death day, graduation day, this-day and that-day. There are good days, okay-ish days and some truly terrible days. Our life is sent to us as presents wrapped in these twenty-four-hour-period boxes called ‘days’. All of us would rather the presents were only good, lovely and perfect. Well, hope as we might, that isn’t the case and from time to time a nasty present will turn up. Shocks, disappointments, failures, frustrations – all wrapped neatly with a big fat ribbon on them.

But, when it comes down to it, there’s always another present waiting for us the next day. =D

(Oh, and isn’t Huxley’s opinion on reading stuff just brill?)


A Saucerful of Secrets

August 17, 2008 at 6:51 pm | Posted in Me + Myself + I | 12 Comments
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I remember when I first started keeping diaries, I was thrilled by the feeling that every thought in my head – every vague idea, every bizarre wish, every whim – could be written down on paper. Since I am completely reserved and utterly private, it was all new to me. Nobody, right since childhood could ever tell what I was thinking any given moment. I was too good at being secretive.

When I started writing down my thoughts in my diary, I was terrified that somebody else would find it and read through it, and discover all about me. And I didn’t want that. My mind was my own property – and sharing it with somebody else seemed a terrifying prospect to me.

It was this insecurity that magnified my sense of isolation and made me very guarded with secrets. I didn’t have a sense of belonging – to anyone or anything. I knew I couldn’t put trust in others, because I had learned that lesson early enough (and the hard way) in life – if I told them, they would either laugh at me, or reject me. So I withheld. But others have always trusted me with their secrets, so perhaps it is quite selfish of me to not trust them in return.

That is why I guess, nobody really knows me. Nobody. There’s a certain amusement and a sense of mild annoyance I get from listening to someone talking about me. They can’t figure me out.

Secrets possess power and terror. And yet I would like to throw them all away, to free myself from their clutch, so that I’ll be left with nothing to hide.

Because there is something very weighty attached to consciousness. If you’re the kind of individual that knows yourself really well, that consciousness – that knowledge, of yourself, is a terrible burden. Because in your case, you can watch the actions and emotions and feelings and doings not only of yourself but also that of others – with a calculating and accurate eye. You observe and you understand. And worse still, it doesn’t leave you out cold. It affects you more deeply than others.

I suppose I shall never have the comfort of having to listen to another person reading me. I don’t know if I am just being selfish. But the feeling that there is someone out there in the world apart from yourself – that knows you inside out, that can read you like an open book, that really gets you – it’s an enormously precious comfort…unlike anything else.

Lost for Words?

August 10, 2008 at 6:38 pm | Posted in Musing + Mulling | 2 Comments
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There are times when your head is bursting with a million thoughts and things to say. And there are times when you can’t think of anything at all. As if you’ve just run out of conversation, and have nothing left to say. As if words and thoughts and images and ideas just drift around lazily at the back of your mind, rooted in silence.

Silence…it has so many hues. It can be oppressive, it can be merciless, it can be over-powering, it can be crushing; but at the same time it can be weightless, liberating, sublime, refreshing, comfortable, uplifting, flowing…

There are silences that creep into awkward conversations. Silences that seize you in a heated argument. Silences that deter you from taking the next step. Silences that prevail after the blinding flash of reality. Silences that emerge out of chaos.

The frantic, rushed and hasty pace of the world makes no sense against the milieu where everything is calm and quiet and flowing. Where things, instead of being frenzied and rushed are as rhythmic and free-flowing as water gushing in a stream.

The endless chatter and babble and talk seem so hollow and absurd when pitted against silence. Silence takes us away from our pompous and superficial selves and brings us back to everything that is humble and pure and true within the self.

Silences, whether outer or inner, arise out of equilibrium. They may leave you with feelings of emptiness, bewilderment, fulfillment, warmth, tranquility, but all those feelings are only the milestones along the path called discovery, of whose truth is the destination.

The indescribable is so called precisely because of its inability to be wrought into words and images…because it is all the more profounder in its silence.

But why the hell am I describing silence? That’s just stupid.

The utter futility of words.

Some things are best left unsaid.

A Letter to Time

July 26, 2008 at 7:13 pm | Posted in Life as I See It, Musing + Mulling | 5 Comments
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Dear Time,

You are a funny thing.

Except that you have a twisted, sick sense of humour. Yes, you do. It really isn’t funny how you can be more indecisive over your speed than George Bush over his multiple-question choices when confronted with an elementary quiz (even with all the options being exactly the same).

Why, for instance, do you have to travel at painfully slow speeds during every Botany lecture? Or, for that matter, when ODT takes up the mic and resolves to display his shameful singing skills? Or during those ridiculous traffic-jams? And you shamelessly zoom by whenever I happen to be sleeping, or reading, or in a concert or in the library or in an interesting lecture or sipping coffee while thinking about nothing in particular or…well you know the list.

You know how many times I’ve cursed you and begged you but you blow all the whining and cursing with one ‘Pooof!’ of your breath, throw back your head and laugh, saying ‘Relativity!’ Well, relativity all right. I expect Einstein spared you the shame of asking you how long you took to choose your pizza topping.

Anyway, I’m a bit alarmed and disturbed by you. Well, you know, us humans are always a bit alarmed and disturbed when it comes to you. You knocked at my door on the fourteenth of this month and pah! now I’m seventeen. Thanks to you, I’m hit by dumb questions from dumb people such as ‘Are you grown up yet?’ from all sides. I mean, come to think of it, there would be no such questions if it weren’t for you.

‘Are. You. Grown. Up. Yet?’
they ask from all sides, in a sneering, idiotic fashion that brings back – I don’t know why – memories of a particularly sinister chorus of an advertising jingle I’d heard as a kid. And then, I can do nothing but tell them to shut up. Growing up was never (and isn’t ever going to be) on my to-do-list, I tell them airily.

To-do-lists. That brings back memories too. Remember when I was a silly little girl of eleven, I’d make stupid, gigantic to-do-lists that included every wee thing, including even things such as brushing my teeth at night? It sounds so strange now. I never follow a To-Do-List (I don’t remember checking that little box in the ‘done’ column in ages) now…though that maybe, er, due to my failure to follow them.

But really, that’s the problem with the world today. For most people, life has become an endless chain of To-Do’s. Do this, do that. And you go on running, adding more and more items to your To-Do-List at every stop, but never once pausing to stay and care to look.

So…back to you. I’ve already whined about you being oh-so-unfair. But what are you, really, Time?
Do you even exist? Are you just an illusion? When did you begin? How will you end? Don’t you ever get tired of…going on, all the time? Don’t you ever rest?

Yes, I pestered you with these questions back as a six year old and I pester you with them now. They’re maddening questions, you know. You don’t how much humans fuss over them, and over you. We owe life to you, and yet we don’t understand you at all. You’re never absolute. Most of the humans are terrified of you. You’re the biggest bully we’ve ever known.

It’s easy to say you’re cruel. That you are merciless and intimidating. But don’t feel bad. It’s because of you that we have such a thing as memories – belongings that we gather and carefully preserve above everything else. It’s because of you that we can have music. That we have life itself is due to you. OK, that’s enough praise to last for a lifetime.

And what exactly is a lifetime? And what exactly is a moment?
Oh, I can hear you sighing now and wishing I’d stop with all these questions already. Well, all right, I’ll stop. But before I do so, let me ask you something. See, seventeen years isn’t really a long time when you’re looking back at them – no period of time is. Thing is, you’ve always been there, always hovering in the background, leveling every thing. But at some point of my life, I hope you’ll finally relent. I know that one day, even if for one fleeting moment, you’ll be still. And that moment will have been a lifetime.

Until then,
keep ticking.

On the Playground

July 8, 2008 at 7:31 pm | Posted in Verses + Vignettes, World + People + Events | 6 Comments
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The children are scattered all over the playground.

Two girls with fat ponytails sit on the steps. Their plastic dolls don’t blink or frown. They only smile. With their teeth showing. And when one of the girls yanks out a strand of hair, the doll doesn’t wince or protest. She just keeps on smiling.
The girls keep their play to themselves. They recite their doll’s dialogues in hushed voices. They have the dolls cry softly. Laugh delicately. Sing inaudibly.

Because the girls want to keep their World to themselves. They are careful not to let anybody else be a part of it. They don’t want them to shatter it, their world of silent shouts and whispered weddings.

The dolls don’t mind, because they don’t have one to do so.

Over there, by the swing, the children sway to and fro. They lurch forwards only to be instantly pulled backwards again. Whoosh. They rise higher and higher, chests heaving with each lurch, but just as they put out their fingers to reach out and touch the invisible wall, they are summoned backwards again. As though the Swing is determined to let them go only so far. The breeze cuts through their hair; or do the children cut through the breeze?

A queue of children await their turn on the swing, getting more impatient with each lurch.
The Swing knows.

A few girls huddle on a grassy patch, their self-willed skipping ropes resolutely refusing to be perfectly Skipped.

‘England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales
Inside, outside, inside, on!’

But the ropes don’t obey. They get caught up in the feet every time.
One, two, three, four. The Ropes refuse.

On the seesaw two kids play.

Up and Down are like two siblings who never seem to agree. They always fight and never seem to last long, because Up becomes Down and Down becomes Up.

The voices of the children drift over the lazy air.

‘Queenie, Queenie, who’s got the ball?
Are they short, or are they tall?’

The Queenie sees with her ears.

’Are they hairy, or are they bald?
You don’t know because you don’t have the ball!’

She turns around. And listens with her eyes.

The children play.

They don’t know that the swing that controls them is only another form of the society that they will live in as adults.
They don’t know that their precious stories will inevitably be splintered, modified, and crushed someday.
They don’t know that the ropes that rebel are nothing compared to those they will come to know when they grow older – the superficial, the ignorant, the narrow-minded tunnel visioned ropes of human beings.
And the seesaws are only a feeble reflection of the world they live in, riddled with inequalities and injustices, that crashes around them everyday.

They just play.

A boy with curly locks squashes ants on the porch.
Here comes a candle to light you to bed.
A girl fumbles with a yo-yo.
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.
The class bully intimidates the kids on the merry-go-round.
Chip chop, the old man is dead.


June 29, 2008 at 1:55 am | Posted in Verses + Vignettes | 4 Comments
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Threads of thought uncoiling
Swirls of memories gathering
Like so many beads.
Shades flickering
Sounds disentangling

The glint of an eye
The swish of wings
Of a bird in flight
The touch of a feather
Floating in the air and
Gently settling down on earth

Like a drop of water that clings
On the end of a leaf
Like curls of smoke
That escape
Like clouds that glide
On air

Mingling, fusing, merging
One by one
They will all be gone
And reborn

Mahogany hues and emerald foliage
Born of the earth
Into the starry canvases overhead
Infinitely stretching.
Driving down
Into an endless spiral
Only to rise above again.

The ‘I’

June 21, 2008 at 3:48 pm | Posted in Musing + Mulling | 2 Comments
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What makes a person an individual? Their name? Their body? Their own qualities, their intellect, their soul? Their religion, or lack thereof, their way of life…what?

The name is a provision we make to organise things better. Associating a person with their name is something we do simply to escape the chaotic mix-up that would arise if everyone and everything went about nameless. But you may argue, may you not, that that is exactly what is required – isn’t the act of naming, after all, setting something apart from something else, making it distinct, separate, independent?  And that is the cornerstone of being ‘individual’ – being different. But what we call a person might be the name to millions of others. Then doesn’t the distinctness vanish into thin air? Moreover, a person can be called anything: any name at all.

The body, too, is illusory. The body is like a shadow – you wouldn’t associate your being with your shadow, how then can you associate it with your body? Don’t you relinquish the body at the moment of your death?

But the trickier aspect is this: a person with their own unique qualities, opinions, aspirations. Of course, these differ from person to person – and therefore, you may safely assume that this after all, is what makes a person different from the person next door. And you’d be right. But what if you happen to change your opinions (opinions can be temporary), shift your interests, replace your desires? Then that would, by our definition, be nothing short of being another person.

And yet you are not another person. You are just you. This is the heart of the matter: being you. Being – we call it existing. Existence, in one form or the other, is still existence. That is what we mean by ‘soul’. My definition of soul is a simple and short one. I call it the ‘essence of existence’. Soul is the heart of existing, one way in which humans differ from computers: we know that we exist. That existence, and the knowledge of that existence, is what it means to have a soul.

It is, in effect, what it means to have an identity. I consider identity and individuality to be two different things. A metaphor explains this quite simply: Water is, by definition, a shapeless, flowing, substance. When that same water becomes ice, it acquires a shape, and doesn’t flow. When that ice is heated it again becomes water, and that same water upon heating changes into gas. At every stage, the properties vary according to the form. The form is changing but no-one doubts the existence of the substance. Water, in liquid, solid, or gaseous form, is still there. And you don’t have to call it water – you may as well call it ice or gas or orange juice. So at every stage, in each of its forms, it has a unique set of qualities. Volume, mass, shape, fluidity, transparency, each of them peculiar to the respective form. That is individuality. The fabric of uniqueness. But in spite of everything, in spite of all the change, the water continues to exist, continues to be. That is identity.

And in the end, it all boils down to this: Wherever you may come from, whatever you may be called, whoever you may be related to, however you are, whatever you may become, you won’t stop being you.

The Peace and Power Riddle

June 4, 2008 at 5:25 pm | Posted in Musing + Mulling, World + People + Events | 3 Comments
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It is entirely possible for tomorrow to not arrive. It is easy, say, for humanity to wipe itself clean off the surface of the earth by nuclear warfare, or get wiped off by one of the natural calamities we have been instrumental in creating ourselves.

Either way, the conclusion is the same.

Lately, every major political leader, in every country of the world, has been screaming from the rooftops for World Peace. World what? Peace, you say? Well, you’re fooling yourselves, folks, for you’re as near towards getting world peace as My Chemical Romance are towards being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

What right do people in power have to demand peace, anyway? It’s them who demand peace while plotting to wage wars, who keep on babbling away about human rights while violating them from the first day of assuming office themselves, who don’t see any difference between making speeches and making weapons. It’s easy enough for them to talk peace, demand peace, propagate peace, market peace, while peace is something that they’ve never had and never wanted. While the Darfur conflict gets keeping worse and worse, the people who are in position to stop it continue to sit and close their eyes. US still hasn’t drawn troops out of Iraq. Suicide-bombers are being manufactured like packets of cereals. You show me one of these politicos who want peace who are prepared for it.

What about people who do care? Who, truly and genuinely, want the world to be a better place? Are they seeking an ideal that doesn’t exist? Are they being optimistic and foolish? If optimism if foolish, how does pessimism make things better? If you’re an optimist, you obviously want things to get better and hate the current mess it is in; if you’re a pessimist, you still hate it. So whether optimistic or pessimistic, we all agree on one thing: the world’s current situation sucks. (Oh yes, even the optimists, for being an optimist doesn’t mean that you have to see the bright side and ignore the dark side altogether.) That much is certain.

The 1960s saw the peace movement in various parts of the world, but half a century later, we’re no better off. Where does the problem lie? Is it illogical for peace to be possible at all? Okay, hang on, we’re not talking about something abstract here, we’re talking about our lives, for fuck’s sake. Then is it to do with the framework of international policy? Partly, so ably outlined by George Bush: If you’re not with us, you’re against us.

Oh, then there’s this bloody religion business. My God is better than yours. How convenient! Brainwash the masses into hating each other for having a faith different than their own. Religious fanatics will do anything for proclaiming superiority of their respective religions; they’ll kill for it, die for it, anything but live and let live for it.

But when you take it all together, it all boils down to one single thing. Power. It’s power what drives politicians and policies, religions and races. The two World Wars were wars over power. The holocaust and Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’ were the direct outcomes of his thirst for power. The Cold War, the gold rush, the dot com burst, you name it. Aren’t they all to do with humanity’s never-ending quest for power?

The ruthless force that makes men shine like stars, or crushes them to dust. Isn’t it strange, when Nature had already made us the most powerful species from the start? There’s power and there’s money, that loom over the earth as bullies, making people commit stupid, cowardly things. Power is a bully that creeps in and intimidates us in every decision or choice: even the choice of survival, for natural selection itself is a fight for power.

And there you have it. There’s nothing you can do about it – hunger for power is hardwired into our brains. And power isn’t a bad thing in itself – it’s its handling that plays the devil. So as long as there’s fighting over power, there’ll never be world peace. So the question facing folks everywhere today – politicians, economists, philosophers – is how to control the balance of power and guarantee lasting peace. Marx asked the same question and said the solution was a classless society where the Power was to the People. But hey, the Soviet Union didn’t work out, did it?

Dictatorship, democracy, anarchy…what really is the best way of making power make way for peace? The solution seems elusive…one hundred and ninety-five countries, various cultures, and contradictory socio-economic conditions. Dictatorship is definitely off the list. Democracy is reckoned to be the best way of governance so far but then what is to account for bureaucratic selfishness and shortsightedness?

And anarchy…I’m not sure that it’s the best way – indeed, even if it is a good way at all – but it seems to me that anarchy is the only system which puts faith in humans’ capability to govern themselves, not by a bunch of people that supposedly represent them. It trusts them enough for them to practise freedom – but then just where do we draw the line between the required and excessive freedom? And would that freedom be preserved at all and not be culminated into another dictatorship? Is it possible to eliminate the element of power after all?

Ah, maybe I’ll just leave it to the economists until I can work out a theory of my own ;]

When Life Hits You On the Head With a Brick

May 28, 2008 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Life as I See It | Leave a comment
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Finally, after a month and half of suspense, trepidation and much-felt regret, it’s all behind me.

I am not in worry anymore.
I am not in debt (money-wise or otherwise) anymore.
I am not in love anymore (if it was love in the first place).

I am free.

God knows I’ve had enough to deal with in the past few months. But now it’s all over and done with and I’ve promised myself not to whine over things for a while.

I’ve been wondering why it is that when everything seems to be going on smoothly in life, half a dozen problems and troubles come rolling down like boulders, and you go blank in the face of it. And then, as time passes, those boulders pass away too, and you emerge, sometimes scathed, sometimes not; but you emerge out of it anyway.

One thing I’ve learnt is that, when these problems do come our way, we feel their terror as they approach us, getting nearer and nearer all the time; but when they finally do arrive, a strange kind of feeling – I don’t know what it is, courage or  something else –  takes charge and it only begins to seem as a matter of time.

Sometimes life hits you on the head with a brick. Some of us manage to stay cool in its face and come up with an elegant solution, while some of us (like me) panic, get jumpy over little things, get knocked down, stumble, fall, get back up again, and staggering, tottering, wobbling, faltering end up fumbling our way through.

If My World Should Collapse Around Me Tomorrow

April 7, 2008 at 6:20 pm | Posted in Life as I See It | 4 Comments
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One moment, life is all joy and bliss, and the next, adversity and fear. The pleasure, the contentment, the solace. All reduced to dust.

I await and dread my future equally. Perhaps it’s only the next day, the next week. month or year that really frightens me, fills me with a nameless trepidation, because ten years on, twenty years on, it all seems so distant.

Always living in apprehension, living in worries, living in lies, is living while killing yourself inside. And yet, you have to do it. Everyone would like a life free of all care, and yet, the world doesn’t let you have it.

I’m safe today. I’m happy. I know it. But that happiness is marred by the knowledge of what I have in store for me. My present is forever stained by my past, and eternally haunted by my future. I’m caught, always weaving back and forth, sometimes resorting to tears, sometimes trying to laugh it off, and always carrying that sense of burden with me, within me.

If my world collapses around me tomorrow, and I lose everything…what would I be left with? If I should lose my possessions, my comfort, my freedom, what would I have? Would I have a future at all?

But would it be fair for me to say that I have nothing, no future? Am I only dreading it too much, because I’m scared of abandoning the refuge of present? The thing that I dread most will surely come, but it will also come to pass. That’s easy for me to say that at this moment, to resort to the only possible defence I have – hope. But what about when it finally arrives? What would I be like at that time?

I’m thoroughly confused. I hate it, I dread it with all my being and yet a part of me wants to see it come and go. Why do I feel that? I think it’s vertigo, probably. I’m not sure what I want, except that I cannot take any more worry and apprehension. If a thing makes me happy today, but would cause me pain tomorrow, let me have it. If I have to pay with tears for a laugh for today, let me have it.

Sometimes I have the strange feeling that I would like the earth to open up and swallow me whole, and no more be. That I would like to abandon everything, every dream, every joy, every pleasure – and the funny thing is, it’s not suicidal. It’s happy, almost. It’s strange. It’s an urge of relinquishing everything, whether good or bad.

It would be easy for me to continue to hope, continue to delude myself, into a sense of security. It would be equally easy for me to despair. Whatever way I choose, it’s going to happen. Whatever happens, tomorrow will come. I live, for better or worse.

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