equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
04 Jul 14

steps into strides

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It’s nice to be at a point where I don’t suf­fer sim­ply by the act of exist­ing. With my head above water, I can pur­sue a sense of hap­pi­ness instead of con­stantly decid­ing whether it’s worth going on.

But I have to admit that the depth of my strug­gle is what gave me the tools to thrive now. When I was try­ing to sur­vive the most dif­fi­cult times, I learned that I could limit the effect of life’s inher­ent insta­bil­i­ties by being in bet­ter con­trol of myself. Through my jour­ney with social injus­tice1, I learned how to empathize with peo­ple and under­stand their expe­ri­ences. From hav­ing lost all my most fun­da­men­tal emo­tional bonds, I learned to be a more patient friend and deeper lover.

It feels like I’ve been strug­gling in ado­les­cence, and am now tran­si­tion­ing to the next major phase, one that will involve as much heal­ing as grow­ing. That means I need to prac­tice using these tools, cause know­ing how to be a bet­ter per­son isn’t enough by itself; time and per­se­ver­ance are just as impor­tant for a per­son with so much damage.

There are still bad days, moments of weak­ness, and ground­less inse­cu­ri­ties, but they’re get­ting less fre­quent and less intense, and I have more time than I ever thought I’d have. As long as I’m on the right path, each step I take toward find­ing my stride will get me to where I want to go.

  1. And with the sup­port of Shawn and Tiana mak­ing me feel val­i­dated about my feel­ings every step of the way. []
05 May 12

what fool hath added water to the sea?

O earth, I will befriend thee more with rain,
That shall dis­til from these two ancient urns,
Than youth­ful April shall with all his showers

—Titus Andronicus

I lost my life as I knew it, piece by piece, over days and weeks and months. Now things will never be the same. In moments of cri­sis, every­thing has been dis­tilled; what’s gone is gone for­ever, and what remains is what I will carry for the rest of my life.

And as the threads unrav­eled, I tore myself from the world away, my face unable to bear the bur­den to others.

21 Oct 11


Don’t try to make life a math­e­mat­ics prob­lem with your­self in the cen­ter and every­thing com­ing out equal.


Sometimes it feels like I’m being pun­ished for a crime I never committed.

19 Mar 11

old habit

  • Rob: Sometimes it still hurts. You know how it is, man. It’s like, you wake up every day and it hurts a lit­tle bit less, and then you wake up one day and it doesn’t hurt at all. And the funny thing is, is that, this is kinda wierd, but it’s like, it’s like you almost miss that pain.
  • Mike: You miss the pain?
  • Rob: Yeah, for the same rea­son that you missed her… because you lived with it for so long.


I’m in my last days of high-school again. Pretty much this. Feeling like I have the rest of my life ahead of me with so much to look for­ward to, but only cause I’m try­ing to shed every­thing that hap­pened in the final dis­as­trous year.

I remem­ber writ­ing a lot back then in this black note­book. It was filled with all these ver­bal scrib­bles, short pas­sages of text, words, lyrics, emo­tions I couldn’t con­tain. My thoughts were a jum­ble, lost some­where between the pain and the love of how it made me feel alive.

That’s how I feel now. Old habits break hard.

About once every two years I uncer­e­mo­ni­ously threw it out and bought a new one, because I hated every­thing in it. I never wanted to think of myself as the per­son who wrote all the things in there. Sometimes I won­der if I’ll look back on these entries one day and think the same.

02 Feb 10


(+5 bonus points if you get the album reference.)

Thumbnail: Heart in the window

I really do have love to give! I just don’t know where to put it!

—Quiz Kid Donnie Smith, Magnolia

Okay, I’ll admit it.

I need to love. I need it, the way I need to eat.

This is the same part of me that notices the faint out­lines of hearts drawn in car win­dows. Also, the same part that mar­vels about that ado­les­cent point in life, when one would draw some­thing so sim­ple and insignif­i­cant because the only worry was whether or not some­one liked you back.

So when I don’t have some­one to love, it fuck­ing kills me.

11 Aug 09

Diagram For Heartbreak

I love mak­ing these lit­tle dia­grams. It’s so cathar­tic. I remem­ber read­ing this xkcd comic (Do you know the func­tions? Answers in the foot­note1.) a long time ago, and think­ing, “Yeah, I don’t get it either”.

Diagram for heartbreak: Why won't you let me get over you?

Diagram for Heartbreak: Why won't you let me get over you?

Diagram for Heartbreak: Might as well not even try

Diagram for Heartbreak: Maybe I should be an asshole

Diagram for Heartbreak: Kissing ratios?

Diagram for Heartbreak: Lose-lose situation

I’ve always been a visual per­son, but I never real­ized that doing some­thing like this would make things so much clearer. All those years earn­ing a degree in com­puter sci­ence — learn­ing Venn dia­grams, flow charts, and the like — have finally come in handy.

  1. From left to right, top to bot­tom: square root of love, cosine of love (trigonom­e­try), deriv­a­tive of love (cal­cu­lus), matrix mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of love (lin­ear alge­bra), and some­one help me out with the last one, it seems like another cal­cu­lus equa­tion with some con­stants thrown in the Fourier trans­for­ma­tion of love (Hat tip to Edd Sowden for this one). []
23 Apr 09

Goodbye, Love

Tulip carnation bouquet

On our last day together she brought me a bou­quet of tulips and car­na­tions, and a Joe Hisaishi CD — a child­hood mem­ory of mine she ordered from Japan. I had men­tioned it in pass­ing on one of our walks as the only album I’ve been unable to find for down­load or pur­chase, and there it was, in my hands.

We watched Before Sunrise, and after­ward, we laid next to each other on the couch, silent, unsure of what to say, because there was no com­fort to be had. Soon, I was kiss­ing the tears from her face, over and over again.

She asked what she was going to do with­out me. How long it was going to be before we saw each other again. Whether a sim­ple phone call was allowed. I could say noth­ing, because I under­stood the neces­sity of it all.

So she said she was being reduced to an observer, and I grew cold and dis­tant. It was the first time I had con­sid­ered my own feel­ings, when I had felt reduced to much more than that, and she wasn’t mak­ing it any eas­ier. With her lips on my neck and her hand through my hair, she com­forted me in turn, and our pas­sion took hold of us one last time.

Before she left, I hugged her, felt her tears grow cold on my shoul­der, and kissed her once more on the cheek. Thank you, she said.

My heart has been filled with a calm sad­ness ever since. A strug­gle between the pain of being away from her, and know­ing that it’s for the best. That we would be stronger, and more sta­ble when it was all over.

In the days since, I’ve remem­bered the things I wanted to say to her before she left my back porch, run­ning to car with­out look­ing back before the emo­tion could over­whelm her. Things that didn’t come to my head because I was too focused on keep­ing myself together.

Don’t stop cre­at­ing. Take care of your­self. I love you.

14 Apr 09

Protected: Break Reprieve

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18 Feb 09

Pain Is Better Than Emptiness

I’ve come to real­ize that I cling to pain and yearn­ing because they give me inspi­ra­tion. They may not be the sole source, but cer­tainly a great deal. I always lis­ten to Leonard Cohen and Elliot Smith dur­ing such moods, as they have the abil­ity to inten­sify and deepen the sadness.

I can tell it’s some­thing of a destruc­tive habit. It’s almost like I sub­con­sciously choose to dwell on things that have been resolved for the sake of some­thing to write about.

It makes me think of the last lines from King Missile’s song Ed:

Yes, this is the answer. This is the end­ing. I shall keep on run­ning, because a body in motion tends to stay emo­tional, and it’s bet­ter to feel. Pain is bet­ter than empti­ness, empti­ness is bet­ter than noth­ing, and noth­ing is bet­ter than this.”

Is this how I feel alive, a way of bring­ing sig­nif­i­cance to my life? Or is this the way I truly feel, and I’m sim­ply a slow healer, and too much of a thinker?

Or per­haps the bet­ter ques­tion is this: does hap­pi­ness inspire me just as much?

23 Dec 08

Life Is Pain

Hand spot

Sometimes, you stab your­self in the hand with a point, but it’s not sharp enough to break the skin.

Sometimes, the blood comes to the sur­face, and this is as much of your­self as you can show the world.

Sometimes, the pave­ment is cov­ered in snow out­side, and you can drive over 100kph in one spot before the trac­tion kicks in.

Sometimes, you scare your­self with your recklessness.

Sometimes, you real­ize that life is pain.

Sometimes, you have noth­ing left but numb­ness and resolve.

29 May 08

I Found Her

The woman I’ve been look­ing for my entire life.

Her name was Christine. She was thin lipped. Frail limbed. Not the least bit cam­era shy, as she pulled her shirt up to expose a breast, like she had fallen on the grass this way and the folds in her clothes rearranged them­selves on her body.

Here she is on a horse in the night. Here she is, grim-faced, cradling her son. There was a scar on her neck from a sui­cide attempt years ear­lier, and through a series of pho­tographs, you could see the scar heal.

For seven years she was mar­ried, before she suc­cess­fully jumped to her death from the 9th floor of an apart­ment in East Berlin.

A blink in my eye, a snap of some­one else’s shut­ter. A muse of flesh and blood. The Jane Birkin to Serge Gainsbourg. The Olga Ivinskaya to Boris Pasternak.

This is some­one who under­stood his art, his mor­bid­ity, his need to cap­ture her sui­cide in a frame, then pub­lish the image of her body on the pave­ment, look­ing down from the 9th floor, along with insou­ciant pic­tures of a teacup, a play­ground, a tank, three plants.

And as soon as I had found her, she’s gone.

Should I be happy that she existed? Should I be sad that she’s gone? Should I be pun­ished for com­par­ing the women I’ve had to her?

Is this painful, or beau­ti­ful, or both?

11 May 08

Love is a Bohemian Child

Quand je vous aimerai?
ma foi, je ne sais pas,
peut-être jamais, peut-être demain,
mais pas aujourd’hui, c’est certain.

One day, he dis­cov­ered that she loved him just as much as the day she left, and that every new man she sought for com­fort was just another attempt to replace him; he was unlike any­one she had ever met before. But there was noth­ing that could be done; the pain had left him cold and unmoved.

So enough about love, he said, for love is often fickle and unrequited.

And it’s only being on both sides of such an idea that allows him to accept this.

18 Feb 08

My Mom Keeps Calling

And I keep hang­ing up.

The first thing she asks, non­cha­lantly like noth­ing has hap­pened, is whether I’ve eaten yet. This is some­thing thing she used to say at the begin­ning of every phone call. One of her old habits, to make sure I’m eat­ing enough.

I didn’t answer her ques­tion, but asked what she wanted. She told me she just wanted to see how I was doing.

She doesn’t get it. I don’t want to talk to her. I never want to talk to her again. Every call is a reminder of the wounds that haven’t healed.

It’s like hav­ing your rapist show up at the door with flowers.

06 Nov 07

A Difference of Love

Love doesn’t end, just because we don’t see each other.”, she told him

Doesn’t it?”, he asked.

People go on lov­ing God, don’t they? All their lives. Without see­ing Him.”

That’s not my kind of love.”

I real­ize that on days like this — when the wind is cut­ting through the seams of my jacket, when my stom­ach is so cramped that it twitches, when I’m uncon­trol­lably nod­ding off to sleep on the bus, when my trans­fer expires before I can use it, when incom­pe­tence isn’t keep­ing my appoint­ments — that I can’t call you. It just wouldn’t help.

You aban­doned me when I needed you the most. I’ll never trust you with any­thing impor­tant again. Including me.

You may say you love me, but I don’t love you. Not anymore.

This is how I real­ize that love is defined dif­fer­ently by dif­fer­ent people.

My love is (was) boundless.

Yours is of convenience.

05 Sep 07

A Test Of Love

So I deleted your num­bers off my speed dial. I took down your pic­tures. It was an in-the-moment thing.

I’m calm now, see­ing things objec­tively, yet still undecided.

Part of me wants to believe we can still be friends. That we can still hang out with­out me depend­ing on you for any­thing. But I’m not like that, and I don’t stay friends with those on whom I can’t depend.

I put aside my issues for my friends, and I needed you to do the same for me.

I cried, not only because you weren’t there when I needed you, not only because you had a respon­si­bil­ity to my friends as well, but because I never allow those who hurt me so much to be a part of my life. Our friend­ship may be lost, and this is what upsets me the most. Perhaps it hurts so much because you were so impor­tant to me. I don’t want to lose that, but I’ll never for­get what you did and I’ll never trust you again.

And if I can for­give you, you’ll know that I truly love you.