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Sunday, May 6, 2018

The story about the sea

There is a sea where all parents dump their kids in.

In certain hours of sunrise or sunset, you can almost see the vague dichotomy of individual lanes for each kid to swim. Much like an infinity pool. Except this one really does feel like infinity. You can already tell it's going to be a long journey before they see land again. What the parents lacked for in terms of stamina, they made up for with their sacrifice and love, just in order to get their kids within the vicinity of the sea. They bet their livelihood on their little swimmers making it through the end.

From the early years of parenting, their children have been groomed. They have been fed with the idea that the way to a better life is to swim through this sea and come out at the end. They were told to swim, no matter how hard it gets, and reach the end, as fast as they can. And now, the were here.

Moments away from the big swim.

Why fast? we don't know.
These parents had themselves been groomed by their own parents. The idea was that getting near the seas just meant you were that much closer to success. You just follow, you don't ask. Year in, year out. Two intakes per year. You just give them all the money you have, and then you qualify to participate. Then, the 'race' begins, (and ends-- at everyone's own pace). We aren't told why the sea is a measure of whether or not someone has, in simple terms 'made it'. It just is. The trick is simple. Get to the end. Fast.

Some take their time. Some come equipped with the best swimsuits/swimwear. Some don't have the money to afford the gear, and come with what little they have and their natural swimming abilities. Only those who have actually swam in it would be able to tell you what a deceptive sea it is. How volatile and unpredictable. How sometimes, waves come crashing in and threaten to engulf you whole. Then, hours later, a calmness. The kind that you could fall asleep on its surface.

Some give it their full force in the race, from start to end. Some take their time and go where the tides take them. Some find what way works for them, and by sheer luck, stumble upon abandoned boats, floats or rafts and seize what little chance they have to preserve their dying stamina. Now, everyone's stamina is different. It is NOT a level playing field. But what it somehow is, is that it's a race.

What happens at the end? Success, we are told. A better life.

Never mind that we barely have any energy left in us by the time we get there. Never mind the nearly impossible journey and all the ways you tried that didn't work out. Never mind the fact that you had to leave behind familiarity and brave this foreign sea which felt a lot like a foe than a friend. Never mind that you were swimming with equally devious company, the kind that would drown you to take the lead. The kind that helps you all the way then when you get close to land leaves you on your own. Never mind that you don't even know how to swim. You were supposed to. It's what normal people do.  In the end, you got there. That's what counts , no?

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in a nutshell

2017 started off with a bang. ;)

From the first half an hour of it I knew it was going to be a different year, the kind that leaves a mark. And today, with one day left, I can safely say the battlescars are there.

In no particular order;

-I felt snow (kinda)
for the first time !

-I visited new countries and places like Italy (Verona), London, Bristol, Bath, Pembrokeshire, London again, Netherlands (Amsterdam) before returning to good ol' Malaysia. And suddenly my reality became different.

- I learned what it means to have a group of friends who have grown to be like family. How everyone can be such different people and vibe nonetheless. And that just because you don't see each other all the time, the choice to patch things up lies with you.

- I learned that sometimes you could wait your entire life for one big moment and things will not turn out the way you imagined at all but it should not take away the significance of that moment.

- I graduated.

-I left Aberystwyth for good. 
*a moment of silence*

- I took the most OOTD/Full body shots of me in countless variations, and I'm happy because I'm only youthful once. I want to remember it.

- I learned how to spend money on my happiness and how it's okay to not save for rainy days are important but if you only live life that way, you aren't enjoying the sunshine when it's there.

- I gained a lot of weight and you know what, it's okay . So the person who was obsessed with getting fit and staying in shape was a phase after all. I feel beautiful in the clothes I wear. I have much longer hair now and I've learned to embrace femininity.

- I have met new people online, I learned who can vibe with me and who cannot. I don't have the energy to change everyone's mind into what I think I am. But I have yet again been reminded of the old people who have remained a constant , who took the time to give me a great birthday :)

- I joined a speech competition again after ages, and I got third place .

- I started the new phase of my life, *cue scary music* ...the CLP. And in the process, took my first real steps into a legal career by working in a firm. Doing both is not easy .

- I embarked on countless adventures with Shanella . From inventing new recipes, to grocery shopping together, to cigarette breaks in 12 degree weather, to sharing deep seeded secrets and life stories, to discovering new music, to the pick up lines she's inspired,  to just meeting up even though we live on opposite ends, to getting piss drunk in Bangsar, to getting lost in the woods in darkness, visiting Malta and Italy together, to once-in-a-blue-moon studying, to the thousand and one fights we have over anything and everything, to the morning moodiness until she gets her nice hot coffee--muddled with my need to get up and get organised and productive straight away, to her being reserved while I'm an open book ; She just puts up with my worst , and I have nothing but both appreciation and awe at how we're friends.

There were some rough times too , the worst in fact-- but this year was a gift. It taught me lessons, it brought me people and it changed me. What. A. Ride.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Dear future kid,

Hello, bubba. It's mummy.

I haven't met you. Heck, I haven't even found someone I'd even like to make you with, but I know that I've been wanting you for as long as I knew what babies really were. I have been thinking of all the names I could give you, since I was 12. When I was 14, I had a school desk vandalised with names which begin with the letter 'A'. The concept of an English sounding name followed by an indian name and whatever the surname of your daddy is.

The names that have stuck since ? Aryshan if you're a boy, and Arshna if you're a girl.

Who knows, you might grow up to resent it when you get older. But I promise to try and find you more unique, exotic names which you will not cringe at. Because honey, your name is...your brand. And I want to give you a brand which epitomises success and style. As I type this, I am thinking about how I always, always pass by stores and imagine all the cool clothes I would dress you in. I foresee a lot of denim , because it never goes out of style. Beanies, little brown boots, tank tops, cargo shorts, or mid-length hair on my little boy would be a dream come true. I will buy you all the cool things that I've grown up wanting but could not get.

This does not mean I will spoil you rotten to the point that you can turn around and tell me one day I am just buying your love and you turn into an ungrateful little -----.  You have to learn and understand that any point of time, mummy takes so, so much to get where she is *(or will be, one day). And it's very important that you learn what hard work is. Even though I will do all I can to try and give you an easy life, I also want your life to have meaning. I want you to know that it's a blessing to have meals on the table, the skateboard/treehouse/bicycle/air-conditioned, personalised room you have, and so many people can only dream of have something close.  I want you to know, bubs that I  love you with all my heart, but I am a little skeptical about the idea of smartphones, laptop and tablets so early because I would never want you to use them to escape communication, confrontation or dealing with the difficulties of life. I would never want you to grow up feeling self-entitled. This means I am going to have to hit you when you are being extremely naughty, ungrateful or rude. It might break my heart to do this but discipline and respect is important.

Ah, communication.

There will be a lot of that heading your way, because in our household, we talk about our feelings. If something makes us unhappy, and why. We talk to each other if we are scared, or if we need space. We talk about why we want what we want. We talk about what food we like or hate. And my baby boy/girl, I promise, I will listen. I will act on them if what you want isn't unreasonable. I will be your biggest cheerleader in life. I will push you to achieve things which you did not think you could. I will never want you to be a fake version of yourself around me, because individuality and expression is important.

Now that I have expressed my hopes and dreams for you, It's time for me to apologise. I am so sorry we live in such a distorted version of life, where it's important to parade our happiness and fortune on social media or else it did not happen, and not doing that makes you feel inadequate or less than your friends. For the memes, music and toys which there is nothing either of us can do about. I am sorry that by the time you're 15, to be this epitome of success and style you'd need to fulfill the heavy expectations of all those around you;

Your grades need to be above average so that you don't feel like you're stupid,
You can't wear the same pair of clothes too many times, and of course you'd want to stay in trend,
You might want to impress your first crush but she's just not into you,
You gotta hide the fact that you care about things like marine biology/dinosaurs/english/the violin because to excessively care does not fit into the 'cool' filter,
You gotta know what songs or movies the others are listening to , to have some common ground of conversation,
You gotta have been places ,
You gotta look good so you'd need to devote your time to working out and eating right,
You gotta be musically inclined,
You also gotta read and be aware of recent/current issues

But it's okay if you're not all of this. It's okay. You'll get there on your terms.

And baby I will try not to become one of those workaholic moms . I never had a younger sibling to practice taking care of someone with , and I never really took a great fondness for any other babies I have come across before. I have always felt like a lack of authority with any kid. I am not the one these kids will call 'akka' or 'chechi'. It's odd to even imagine. Instead, I will try to be one of those moms who can be your friend. There are certain things I might want to live out through you, passions. This involves signing up for dance classes/art class/guitar or piano class. I only hope that when the time comes I know when to take a step back from all that pushing and let you have an actual life where you can make your own choices. These are just some of my preferences.

Honey, it is not important that you are the smartest kid in your class as much as it is important for you to be the kid who speaks his/her mind , knows what is going on in the world, has a good understanding of his/her roots and culture. These are all more than I can ask for, and this to me, are things you don't get taught from books. I also am against the notion of private school because I think public school is important for you to see what the real world is like, for you to fully gage the concept of diversity so don't hate me for it. I would never send you to boarding school.

I love you so much already , and I can already see how you will be my most prized possession (I don't say this in an objectifying manner). My dream come true, my passion and my love. It is not going to be an easy journey to live with me , just as , I can tell, if you're anything like me, you're going to be difficult to live with. But you're worth it.


Friday, October 27, 2017

What my depression feels like.

disclaimer : This is going to be a very raw and real post, not intended as an attack at anyone in particular.

"Suicide is cowardly , selfish and childish" ;
...easy to say if you have not completely surpassed all your limits and don't feel like every passing hour is an eternity away. I hate how depression as a concept and feeling has become so dumbed down. You do NOT get depressed over the fact that the shoes don't come in your colour. You get depressed when the rug that is your life gets violently tugged from beneath where you're standing and you just want to feel... normal again. What people fail to see is that a suicidal person is not acting out and doing it to hurt, it's a complete 'fuck all' feeling where being alive is mental torture and it's got nothing to do with YOU, don't take someone's death and make it about YOU.

When I was immersed deeper into depression and could not see the light, I wanted to articulate exactly what that felt like . I wanted to capture my thoughts in real time. Because even then, at the bottom of the pit,  I knew that there would be a time when I would not feel that way anymore. I would not even remember why I felt the way I did. I wanted to believe that the colourful witty person was the default me, and this angry, sad person was the exception.

 So I would write a line or two of something, before feeling like it was pointless, and wanting to work on something else. A new episode, to study a new chapter, to be on facebook or instagram, have a snack. Then I'd tell myself, it's late. Let's wake up tomorrow early in the morning, have a hot cup of  Milo and begin. And the next day would come. But the moment I felt my eyes open, I would lie in bed for a further two hours, pillows on my left and right to resemble the warmth of another person. There was nothing to look forward to for the day. Everybody else had a life to return to, a job to work, a family crisis to resolve, their own settling in issues from spending a year abroad, and I'd be met with the same old advice;

Top 5 'helpful' advice to someone you know who's falling apart:
1. People are going through worse, be grateful for all that you already have.
2. You know that I'm there, I just cannot be there right now.
3. Why don't you spend some time outside your house?
4. Go and buy things to make yourself happy.
5. Pray, don't lose faith in God.

Which would have been great, except I was constrained, financially, transport wise, and when all I wanted to do was spend time with people, they would be busy. I cannot be angry with people for having a life, I understand. But it got frustrating to spend time with just my thoughts.

The second most prominent thing about being depressed was my complete inability to sleep until it was 5-6 am . At first I thought it was the fact that I just came back to a different time zone. But by the time October peeked in, I knew it was more that that. Imagine needing to do five to eight hours of class alongside this, dress well, pay attention, be a good student and neglect the fact that I was not happy with my life, because after all "You have so much to be grateful for, if you're not happy it is your fault". To which again, I'd be met with more 'helpful' advice.

"I can't seem to fall asleep."
"Just go and close your eyes, put away your phone , and sleep".

--gee, thanks.

Tasks like waking up and being in class, dressed well were suddenly.. difficult , and because it was so easy to everyone else, I was afraid that opening up about it just made me appear like a big baby who just needs to get by. Who I was on the outside or on social media was a completely inaccurate reflection of what was going on inside. Because, god forbid you expose your vulnerabilities online.
And maybe because I seemed fine , no alarm bells rung for those who I really wanted to read in between lines and know what was going on. Physically present.

It's not like I was in solitary confinement . It was worse. It was being surrounded by people but feeling so alone, misunderstood, vulnerable. It was no surprise that my relationship with almost everyone was failing as well. My intentions of wanting a better environment or space to exist in got translated as unreasonable demands and ungratefulness. I spoke less, because I could already forsee every conversation ending with a conflict or fight, and every conflict just made me deteriorate further because to even exist required energy and I did not have the energy to defend myself from false accusations or hear myself being called selfish or needs to always be right  --because 'alright/default me' would not have let the conversation navigate this way. Vulnerability leaves room for others to define who you are. You start thinking; 'Am I really like this or that?' Then I started believing and becoming the things I was fed with. That I was an unpleasant person to be around.

"Speak to people about what was going on, don't keep it all to yourself !"

The average adult provides a  'helpful' comparison of how things were in the good old days when people could endure far worse and harsh and still survive, being sure to mention that they have more reasons to not be alive, but that they didn't choose that, therefore the same comparison should apply. Completely oblivious to the seriousness of anything that is going on in your life which makes you feel like you are overreacting. On the same list of hurtful reactions is to be told that the pain and being depressed is self inflicted and if one could just look on the bright side then the problem would not exist. Perhaps what is more hurtful is when the familiar face you are relying on is looking at you like you're pathetic. You want to transfer your thoughts, energy, feelings to someone with a mere touch because you cannot gather the words even, to WHY you are hurt, HOW did it get this bad, WHAT you plan to do about it.

P/S for future reference : A simple "I understand" would have spoke louder than anything. All someone who is kicked down wants for is for someone to wants to spend time with them. Does not have to be anything fancy.

"Just focus on your studies, after all, that's all you have to do now"

That's another thing , which I found kept coming up whether directly or indirectly. Again I feel, another surprisingly difficult thing to do stemming from the inability to focus on one thing. There are so many needs, which can't be bought and cannot be satisfied, underlying in the background, and after all the trial run stuff was dismissed as no big deal, what person would feel like discussing the rest?

Just another subset of depression is how everything which used to be your favourite thing loses its appeal to you. There is no food you think tastes good or worth craving. There's no event you want to be at because that means meeting more people and needing to put an alright or happy mask on. There are no clothes you find flatter you anymore. There is no person who peaks your interest. Cynicism creeps in. It feels annoying to watch or be around happy people because you know happiness is a short lived, temporary concept . Or maybe you envy how other people start of  this race with springy shoes and cheerleaders on the sidelines while you are running it barefoot and alone.

Perhaps what's worst than fluctuating (or non existent) interests, is a fluctuating mood . How you can feel so weighed down in the morning then by evening feel completely different then switch back by midnight. When you're 'normal', you really believe you're just overreacting. Maybe if you wait it out, it can get better. But it doesn't , does it?

I hope I captured what it feels like, even though deep down I think I don't do the description justice because everyone experiences it differently . Things have gotten a little bit better but the fact that I wanted to articulate this was at the back of my mind for some time. I'm glad I did it. '