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What We Leave Behind

Published 23rd December, 2019 in MRP Guest Blogger
by


I’d kept a blog through my teenage years, partly out of curiosity about the Internet, which was still pretty new to us back then. I’d written diligently about completely inane and vapid details of my daily life as a completely ordinary teenager. Then at some point—I’m still not quite sure when—I stopped blogging and somehow the memory of the space disappeared entirely. Entirely, that is, until a few weeks ago, when the song that had been my URL came on (go ahead and roll your eyes, I rolled mine too), and recollection shot through me like a lightning bolt. Holding my breath, I keyed the link into my phone and watched, in pure wonder and amazement, as the site crystallized before my eyes. The last post had been made in September of 2009, a solid decade ago. There were quotes from Disney Channel. There were pictures I hope will never again see the light of day. There were lengthy descriptions of days and encounters I’d all but wiped out from my memory. Cringe aside, it was a bittersweet discovery, a time capsule buried deep below the layers of Internet soil. 

If I’d purely wanted to keep a record of my daily existence, I probably could have kept a physical diary, or a word document (cue scene of Creed enthusiastically updating his ‘website’ on The Office). This was more than a diary. It was a place for me to be seen, and to see myself be seen. It was a record of my life for future me, but also for present others. In this virtual nook that I decorated with handpicked fonts and curated themes, I was making a me. The real me obeyed the rules of time’s passage, developed postural aches and microlines in her forehead. Grew into a writer that didn’t use ‘LOL’ and ‘ttm’ in prose. Moved on, first to tumblr (since obliterated), then Facebook, then Instagram. But, like a Black Mirror plot line, the blogspot me will forever be 16 and cheesy, with acne and a big wide smile and more baby fat than adult me remembers having at that age. 

I think sometimes about mark-making. If cells are in a constant process of death and regeneration, then unless we make marks, maybe it’s difficult to anchor ourselves to our existences. My blog, the one I sculpted with such loving care and became the hotbed of my pubescent rants, that was a mark, a little blip on the blueprint of the virtual world. It’s something I’ll leave behind, that might even outlive me. There are marks in the real world, too. I have a scar on my elbow from when I was a child and accidentally made contact with a hot iron. Another is from the canine tooth of a dog plunging deep into my flesh. I’ve been told I have an unsettling number of moles. The creases at my eyes seem to increase every time I smile, like a game of ‘What’s The Time Mr Wolf?’ that I don’t remember taking part in. The artist Lisa Steele catalogues the marks on her body in a similar manner in ‘Birthday Suit with Scars and Defects’ (1974): 

Lisa Steele, Birthday Suit With Scars and Defects (1974)
Still from Video

In a 13 min B&W video, the artist presents her naked self unflinchingly to the interrogative gaze of the camera, examining the various scars she had accumulated thus far. It was her 27th birthday.

Steele’s analysis of her body transformed it into an artwork: skin to canvas, blood to paint. Just like that, these marks, lines and dots on my skin feel drawn on like a child’s experiments with markers and crayons. Some I made, some I became. Easing gently into my age. Some I try to hide, some I unabashedly display. You wouldn’t believe the number of times the dog-bite scar has functioned as the perfect conversation starter. 

But I’m a creative person, and I want to be a creator. I don’t just let marks happen, take them as they come. I want to be making marks, too. I want to make marks that other people will want to see, that will become an extension of me. A record of my life for future me, but also for present others. And as time goes by, those marks become my legacy, for better or for worse. 

So I carefully curate all three of my Instagram accounts. One for my everyday, one for my film photography, one for my drawings. It’s all very neatly categorised, of course. I conscientiously prune the hedges of my ‘Write’ folder in Google Drive, editing and adding, sometimes throwing in full essays, and other times just little blurbs, thoughts flitting through my head that seem to have some poetic resonance. A website for my film photographs. A portable hard disk full of them too. There are notebooks, less organized, never filled, where I scribble and doodle and occasionally write some very rude and angry things. 

Mark-making is not for the apathetic. 

All these I make in an attempt to scratch a tiny mark on the seemingly impenetrable surface of the universe. In school we learnt that diamonds are such tough little bitches that nothing can scratch them, save for another diamond. As my negatives lazily develop in the dark, and my words pour out in spurts here and rivers there, I’m trying to make myself a diamond. I’m trying to make a mark. 

If you’re here, you’re probably interested in mark-making, too. Writing creates indelible marks on the fabric of history, both personal and universal. Books give textual form to the thoughts and stories that float otherwise tetherless in our minds, and to read is to acknowledge and validate them. 

As the year draws to a close, and so too does my last post as an MRP Guest Blogger, I hope you and I both enter the new year with a mind to carve a mark with our lives. For me, I will be writing, collecting more and more acorns in my Google Drive folder. And although it makes my skin crawl to read a line like ‘rah, we are so koolkat cool’ (kill me), I have to admit that blogging consistently over all those years laid the bricks in the path that led me to where I currently stand. I love writing because I’ve been doing it, however badly, and my little corner of the Internet gave me the space to do so. Twenty-twenty me thanks 2006 me for putting in all that legwork, promises to uphold the torch and keep running. In the new year, I will continue to draw and scribble all over any paper-like surface, especially in boring meetings. I’ll gain a wrinkle or two. Maybe add a scar to the pile. Whatever it is, I hope we find what defines us, and make something real good out of it. 

My sincerest, deepest, gratitude to Margaret River Press for having me as December’s Guest Blogger. Thank you for the opportunity and space to write. Happy holidays everyone!

Footnote: Other things I leave behind

Nov 18, 2006: “MUTTON CURRY IS YUMMY.”

Nov 21, 2007: “Just for everyone’s info, I’ve decided to go spike my hair. Yay! I’m crazy.”

(note: spiked hair was many layers of disaster)

Mar 23, 2008: “EASTER WAS VERY GOOOOOD. 😀 VERY FUNTOO!”

Mar 24, 2009: “Arm wrestling left my arms sore till today.”

Sept 9, 2009: “Hey guys, moving to Tumblr! May be temporary, so stay tuned!”


You can read Heather’s previous posts with us: ‘Inheritance,’A Few Word On Reading and Writing,’ and ‘Walking, Reading’.


Heather Teo is an aspiring Singaporean writer. She studied Fine Art & History of Art at Goldsmiths College, London, and absolutely loved every minute of it. She is interested in psychologies of home and interior spaces, and explores these themes through evocative objects, relics of existences, and moments of intimacy in everyday life. Her short story ‘Gently Burns the Crescent Moon’ was published this year in ‘In This Desert, There Were Seeds’, an anthology by Ethos Books and Margaret River Press. She has also composed the screenplay for an animated short film titled ‘Danger Pain Harm’ (2019). Besides writing, Heather enjoys dabbling in film photography, and was the director of ‘Old of Things’ (2017), a documentary short film and the winner of the 2017 Heritage Short Film Competition in Singapore. Heather currently teaches art in Singapore. She spends nights typing stories, and weekends exploring with her camera.

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