ISSUE Magazine

As Literal As I Can Get by Ai Ming

There, I admit it.

My purpose in life is to write.

And I had been living in denial all along.

I did not believe that writing could ever be my true calling. What, me? Me, a writer? Pfft! I don’t even read that many books in my life to begin with. I do not have a favourite writer because I have always assumed that I do not read enough to distinguish the good ones from the bad. In my perfect little world, they are all remarkable and awesome. They are brave and admirable.

Writing is my purpose? Not in a million years.

Maybe deep down, I wished my calling was something grander, fancier. Something that comes with that “wow” factor when you tell other people. Something jaw-dropping and inspiring. Something my parents would feel smug about when they tell relatives and friends at dinner parties. It could be anything but definitely not writing. I had envisioned my purpose in this world as living a dream life that involved curing cancer and saving babies on a daily basis.

In my head, I was not that person who crouches over a keyboard, typing away on the virtual pages.

What good would I be to this world if I were to just sit and write? I am not out there running around, busy doing something useful am I? Okay, I am starting to be appalled by my own pettiness and insecurity.

It is also partly due to the environment that I had grown up in, which did not endorse a career in writing. Actually, it was absolutely unheard of back in the 90s. I was told that writers get paid a measly income. Well, that was before J.K. Rowling became a famous household name. I was also warned that I would not be able to pay the bills or sustain a family just by being a writer.

When I was in primary school: poets, writers and artists were the three taboo answers to the most asked, if not the most important question posed to a seven-year-old, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

I once wrote, “I want to be an artist”. The teachers thought it was laughable and were quick to rush in for damage control. They made sure that seeds of thoughts were planted into our raw consciousness that we should want to become a doctor, a lawyer, or an accountant. These educators, their jobs were to steer us in the “right” directions. But, the problem is, were they?

Such is the harsh and skewed reality that I used to live in. Nonetheless, over the years, I had maintained a love-hate relationship with writing. It was painful and rocky, but at the same time, alluring and somewhat sexy. For me, it was the forbidden romance that I had cultivated.

Writing was the mythical and ideal lover of mine that my parents would disapprove of and friends would condescend to. I could not admit openly that words were my safe haven. I write to keep myself sane. All these ideas and thoughts in my head, they are in better place when they are put into strings of words. It is in those words that I get to be my most honest and vulnerable self.

Ironically, I saw writing as my weakness. Sometimes, I hated it. I told myself that I should not spend so much time doing what I love; instead I should be doing something more … I don’t know… more “serious” I supposed.

So why admit now, you may ask?


I can’t hold it in anymore. There is no reason to hide behind deceit.

In fact, I am writing this piece in bed because I’ve fallen sick. I am physically sick. But, I am also feeling sick of myself blatantly agreeing with people who express their disgust towards writing. I trashed and shunned writing, which made me feel like I had disrespected my purpose and betrayed my true self. Consequently, I feel like a mess. I feel weak and useless. I feel like a failure.

However, even when I am in such a disgusting state, all I ever want to do is to write my heart out. Then, it finally occurred to me that, words are the most sacred gift I would ever give to myself, especially in the darkest hours. There is a magical sense of serendipity in the words that came straight out of my most genuine self. In those words, I discover pieces of me that I thought were lost forever. Writing makes me feel alive and well.

My own words have cured me. My own words have motivated me to crawl out of my bed, to get connected to the Internet and publish this piece. I vowed to myself, I would hide no more. I will write and I will write continuously, religiously. Even if I were incapable of producing the most poetically structured sentences, I will still continue to write. Even if I have limited vocabulary to play with, I will not stop writing.

What I had learnt over the years is that, everyone has a voice or a purpose, and it is in our duty to find it… honor it.

I may have plagiarized that idea from Oprah.

Ai Ming allows herself to be melodramatic once in awhile. So every time she reads this piece, she can’t help but say to herself, “these nasty little microorganisms broke me!”. Weirdly enough, she’s thankful for it.

This entry was written by Ai Ming and published on 05/09/2012 at 15:25. It’s filed under Ai Ming, Essays, ISSUE4, Musings, Writings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “As Literal As I Can Get by Ai Ming

  1. Michelle Bunt on said:

    This is so beautiful! I love that your own writing cured you, that “the most sacred gift” you could give yourself was writing. I don’t think that I personally have reached that place yet. I have had a glimmer of it for sure, but I think I have a bit more of a journey left to get to that place.

  2. Maddy Chan on said:

    AI MING! I did NOT know you like to write!

    “Writing was the mythical and ideal lover of mine that my parents would disapprove of and friends would condescend to”

    Really! Did I not mention enough times to you that I love writing? Maybe I should have said it more, but I am very very very happy that you “can’t hold it in anymore”.

    Keep on writing, you write so well too 🙂


  3. yunchuan on said:

    i’m glad you found your true calling, don’t stop writing!! 😀

  4. What you were saying about how when adults asked you as a kid what you want to be, the prejudice against persuing a career or life in the arts, all that – damn, hits close to home. I’m in a crisis where I’m not sure if I made the right decision is sticking a middle finger in the faces of everyone so I can be an artist or die trying… But despite all the doubt that came from what I think others expect me to do(therefore what i should do?!), i’m still stubbornly clinging on to what i want to make for myself, even if it’s practically worthless in the physical world at the moment. You just can’t beat that feeling, once a piece of work is completed and it’s made by you. Nothing can even try to compare. Keep writing, for sure! 🙂

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