Not too long ago, in another time, I was teaching at an English as a foreign language center in Hong Kong, where I had been working for perhaps a year too many. As any teacher will most likely testify, I spent a lot of my time in front of a photocopier, printing and copying materials for lessons. During this time, my eyes would often glaze over and my gaze would wander to the world happening just outside the high-rise hamster hole that I found myself in for what felt like the majority of my days. Filled with self-doubt and dissatisfaction, often I’d think of all the things I could be doing, I should be doing or I hadn’t done yet.


On one of these days in early January, while once again standing in front of the photocopier, my mind somewhere else, my finger slipped. What followed was a flash of light, a high pitched squeak and finally a release of a black print from the mouth of this monstrous machine. Instead of quickly tossing this “mistake” into the recycling bin, it gave me an idea, or rather, an urge. I discreetly glanced left and right just to check that no one was watching, opened the hood of the photocopier nice and wide, and before I let any doubt creep in, I placed my face on the glass and pressed “copy”.


What followed was a year. A year of photocopied self portraits filed in a folder. What I viewed as tedious and depressing, became something I looked forward to and as time went by, it became my way of expression, my playroom for the creative child within and my gateway to the present moment. Some days, it brought laughter, other days, I couldn’t bear to see myself and faced that familiar black print that started the whole process. Either way, it helped.


No matter what state I was in, I’d let go with all my imperfection and allow my insides to speak with paper, ink, light, a little imagination and of course the consistency to trust my instincts and just press, copy. 

Open

How it all began

There it was. Just a sheet of paper leading from black to white 

saying much more than what could be seen.

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Unspoken

I'm silent but inside it's all noise. I don't let the world hear. 

Strangled and muffled by hair of my own making.

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Paper clips

So much I do not say because the words don't seem to form and when I open my mouth I spew paper clips. Nothing but paper 

clips.

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Congestion

I can't breathe. The city builds upon buildings and I'm lost in artificial stars and towers that seem to have no end.

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My little friend

He visits me from time to time. Tickles my nose and whispers 

childlike wonder in my ears asking me to look closer. 

Look closer.

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Wish I could be

Under the sea, wild and free. I'd sing with whales and ride their 

tales and swish from wave to wave. And deep below where the

unconscious go, where silence is a way of life, I'd glow so bright, so out of sight. I'd find my own way to grow.

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Listening

I listen. Always to others, valuing words over mine. My ears are big enough to hold more yet still I drown out my insides and 

press mute.

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Start over

It's time. It's time. To begin again. Build a new foundation and 

dream again. It's time to be again.

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Abstraction of self

I wear different hats daily, wondering which one sits best. 

Sometimes I don't even recognize myself.

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The kiss

Voice, I know you're there. I can feel you calling, coming closer. I believe you always were.

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Letting go

There is still a way to go but my breath is light. I exhale,

blowing paper puffed wishes to the universe feeling that if I 

believe hard enough, if I accept with gratitude and if I love and 

trust my instincts then the rest will follow and float back to 

where it always was.

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