Made in Phases

It is through phases that we are born and reborn. Cassandra Li explores the value of these fleeting selves and looks back on those of her own.

It starts from a seed. After that seed blossoms into a gripping interest or an uncontrollable obsession or burning passion, when or how it was planted within you is not as important as where it has or will take you – if you allow it.

A phase can come and go, but a phase as it passes through you breathes into your being. As your interest inflates your world expands; your view widens to see as much of the world that the phase takes you to. Even when this deflates, and you let it go with a gentle exhale, it remains rooted within you and you feel this in the reminiscence – of a song, of a book or a single word, a scene, a scent, a picture – that brings you back to the excitement of having learnt, having experienced and having grown from this seed. You might think it was stupid and funny, you might even be ashamed of it or you might have lots to thank for it; you might still find yourself connected to others by it, or you might have left those connections behind, you might still have reminders hanging around, or have nothing left to be reminded of.

For me, it’s the photos as a kid, dressed in a tutu; it’s the guitar in my room, the tap shoes in its box, the Korean language awards, and the folders in my laptop, the folders on my desk with more unfinished works than finished, the half-filled sketchbook. But much more than the material items that either serve as posts of past accomplishments or street signs of my half-assed endeavours – mostly the latter – are the many more fibres built in me through phases that have informed my being.

I was five and it took less than year, having danced on stage just once before putting the ballet slippers to rest. I asked for a guitar for my sixteenth birthday – I still do not know how to play but still want to. I learnt Korean for four years in high school – I grew out of Korean pop culture but into a culturally sensitive person. I can still understand and speak Korean but still have much to learn. After the HSC and a painful semester studying business at university, I took a year and a half off. Not knowing what I wanted to do with my life I did a term of drawing, another of filmmaking and six months of design fundamentals. These classes confirmed all the things I have wanted to do all along. After watching La La Land, I took up tap dance classes – that lasted ten weeks but I have yet to throw those shoes away.

I have started more projects than I have finished. There are so many more phases that have passed and are to come – ones that have disappeared completely (e.g. Justin Bieber 2010 – but this girl will still pour her soul into singing Baby at karaoke) and others that are revisited, reaching me through ripples if someone or something stirs the waters.

I used to feel guilty and regretful because as much as I am a dreamer, I am a quitter. Yet another hopeless pursuit, an impulse idea to waste time and efforts on, a phase I would grow out of, an interest I would tire of and lose inspiration for but I feel now, as if I would be more crippled by the pain of never starting out. Each time, I discover something new about myself, about the people around me and about the world, as if every phase is another new lens to see out of. These phases have made me me.

It’s the starts that count. The seed may have never sprouted much greater than the surface but make within yourself a fertile soil to try things, to rise past doubts and just start. How far you will be able to sustain its growth is unknown but you will know more in the pursuit of things than refusing to water it from the beginning. These phases give our lives taste and colour; they give our minds something to think about and our hearts something to yearn for. And without them we would be nothing but blank canvases. The world is big, and has so many pockets to explore. Go through them without cowardice, for one can only grow. Even when you grow out of a phase, know that is only because you are growing into something new.

Cassandra Li is a first-year Media Arts and International Studies student whose pastimes include anything done on impulse and current phases include Japanese jazz and spoken poetry.