Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking Back at 2007

It's quite cliche to write a New Year's post I know, but I can understand the impulse now. There's something rather momentous about the turning of the year, a brand new start casting off the mistakes and regrets of the past and marching boldly into the future. A cause for celebration, though it's hard to explain why. After all, what is a new year but a standard way to cordon and segment the passing of time, the moving on of our lifespan on earth?

All the same, a new year is as good a time as any to reflect on what one has accomplished and learnt throughout the year that has gone by. Some things that happened in 2007 that stood out for me:

1) Going to National Service on 1st Jan.
What a way to start the new year-leaving home for some ulu jungle place for 3 months supposedly for national integration but rather to waste time and money endlessly marching, getting eaten alive by insects, swinging on monkey bars and being fed patriotic sentiments. And a whole 3 months cut off from civilization, air-conditioning, the internet, pork!
The reality was quite different: we couldn't get out except on Sundays (for church, if you're Christian), we had long and tiring weekdays (5.30am-11+ pm), often the schedule was monotonous and boring, the uniforms were sweat-trapping, unfashionable and impractical for the sake of so-called modesty.
Yet there were many great memories, many people that I feel privileged to have met though I will not likely ever see them again. They taught me about contentment, about having a simple life, about the importance of family and about kindness. In the little bubble that was our NS camp, we formed alliances and friendships with people of different races, backgrounds and cultures that would have been only superficial in the outside world.

2) My grandmother passed away.
Even now, I don't know how to phrase that sentence properly. It happened during NS, I was not told until a day later-they made an announcement calling my name, and when I went to the office I was told "Nenek kamu sudah meninggal." Just like that. They thought I knew-how would I have known? It was the middle of the week, we don't have our handphones except at weekends, and I hadn't called home for a few days. I went home for about 4 or 5 days. It was a sad time, but not despairing knowing that she was now with Jesus and was finally free from the unceasing pain of terminal cancer. Having family and thoughtful friends nearby helped to alleviate the pain as well. Maybe it was good that I had to return to NS, always having something else to occupy my mind.

3) I had my first job.
How exciting it was to get a job! To finally feel useful after long weeks of doing nothing much around the house, sleeping half the day away and moaning to my long-suffering parents about how my life was utterly boring.
Two weeks in, and I start complaining how tiring it is to work six days a week. I dread going back to a stuffy air-conditionerless environment each day and do wonderfully challenging tasks such as photocopying a dictionary, cut-and-paste, check for grammar mistakes in workbooks and such.
One month in, I start working full-time. (before this it was only part-time: and even then I wasn't used to it) The hours tick by slooowly. There is actually a certain amount of satisfaction I get from each job done well, each minor crisis averted, each niggling problem solved. I get closer to my colleagues. I learned what office politics means (though in all fairness, there wasn't that much where I worked).
Best of all, I got my first paycheck! I'm worth every ringgit, baby;p

4) SPM and beyond.
The endless possibilities made me whip my head in every direction, sniff at every tree in the hope of finding the perfect path for my future. A decision had to be made that ruled out a thousand other alluring opportunities. Maturity is the acceptance of limitations. I read that in a book recently, and it struck me that that was one of the most important lessons I learned last year. That you cannot have everything or try everything. You have to balance between unrealistic motivational-speaker-style "You can do anything you put your mind to!" beliefs and the fact that you are only human. Unfortunately, its a lesson that keeps resurfacing again as I try to compromise somewhere between absurd ambition and my lazy self.

5) I got involved in church more.
Looking back, that was a turning point in my life. Sure, it was sometimes frustrating, it was humbling, it was time-consuming and self-doubt about my motivations often battered me - but it was so worth it. God does not ask anything of us without giving it back a thousandfold. What I contributed to starting up and working with the new youth group in my church was so little compared to what I gained from it - the friendship, the renewed sense of closeness to God, seeing the enthusiasm and passion that these people have to see my city-starting from the young people-won for Christ. Their love and the extent of their sacrifices to stay here and carry out the work God has given them inspires me. I only wish I can do the same. It was a struggle to know whether it was God's will for me to leave for Hong Kong or to stay and participate in building up our youth group. Even till now, I don't know if I can say for sure that I made the right decision, or just took my own path regardless. I guess my testimony in Hong Kong will prove it.

6) Leaving home.
How could I have been so eager and fearless to make that decision? If I had known how lonely I'd feel at times, how misunderstood, how stressed. But it's true that we grow through difficulty. Coming back for holidays, I consider everything so much more precious, every moment I spend with my friends and family is a breath of fresh air. They say it takes time to adjust to a new environment. Maybe for a loner it's easier. For someone who places great importance on relationships, well, those take time to build.
Perhaps I could have used this opportunity to draw closer to God, but I drifted away further - trying to fit in with everybody and live up to my own standards of perfection. With a new term and the hard part of adjusting in and 'finding your place' done with, I hope to be more like myself this term, and I think that would be best for everybody - to truly be themselves, not just the usual but the best that they can be.

They say going to college is when your bubble bursts - the little world of beliefs, standards, values and lifestyle that you and those around you follow is challenged. I didn't realise I had a bubble until it started to deflate. It doesn't feel safe to wander far - but in order to find the truth, we must be bold. Step out.

Despite everything, and because of everything - everything that life is going to throw at me, good and bad - I step out into 2008. Boldly.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pixels and Loneliness

I discovered an important truth: I look best in small pictures, about 2 by 3 inches, little thumbnails in which important facial features can be noted (two eyes, two ears, lips) without the flaws being too obvious (shiny skin, crooked hairline).

If only all pictures of me could only be seen at that resolution. Like the msn profile pic size, and not in it's horrendous, blown-up, billion megapixelled, merciless accuracy. Yes, I have a slight phobia of picture-taking. Not that you'd notice, from the way I brandish my (by today's standards) large camera and grab hold of people for snapshots at social gatherings. I live by the philosophy of probability: the more pics taken, the more likely there are going to be some that are half-decent where I don't look like some retard who's on a sugar high (and has been for some time, if you understand what I mean). As long as I'm the ONLY one with the camera. But when others have bad pictures of me and can use it for blackmailing purposes...eek...

This reminds me of some of the many witty one-liners in the play I've just finished performing (I played a supporting character), "Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land".

A: Isn't it beautiful? (Referring to a stage backdrop) From a distance, it looks like embroidery.
B: (Going closer to examine it) Up close, it looks like shit.
A: Well, that's life.

And it's this kind of offhand comment that really strikes us when we think about it (when we have too much time, like me now) - it's true! Our lives always look so neat, so on track when you look at it just cursorily. Step in for a closer look, and you'll notice the cracks in the wall, the missing bits and pieces, the wilted flowers of our little disappointments. But maybe you would see some things that brighten your heart too - a seed sprouting from the ground, a fresh coat of paint on the wall. We may be the frailest of creatures but we are not incapable of redemption, of reinvention.


'Please don't hang up. You needn't say anything more, I'm just afraid of being alone.' (It's a little old-2003 article-but I think the situation probably hasn't changed much since then, people still have the need to be affirmed as human beings, with value to their lives.)

Loneliness can kill-literally. To me, the example I've heard of the most is that of Japan, with the highest suicide rate in the world. The land which invented Toshiba, Toyota, Honda; conquered Southeast Asia, birthplace of anime and outrageous haircuts. Amidst the innovation, the isolation and depression. Souls dying while technology soars to new heights.

Getting a bit carried away, am I?

I'll just leave you to think about this quote from "Shall We Dance?" (originally a Japanese movie-surprise surprise) that I only heard once, but had such an imprint on me that I think of it sometimes, out of the blue.

"We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."

(It's a beautiful movie, full of subtlety and humour while exploring complex issues of love, passion, conformity, desire and many more. I highly recommend it. The dancing is also top-notch.)

I am so glad, so awed, that no matter what, I have more than just a witness to my life. I have a witness to my salvation, my eternal life. Whatever happens, however terrible things become, I am never bearing the burden alone. None of us are, if we only realise the truth. The thing is, we don't really need another person to notice our lives, though it makes life more pleasant. We only need to notice who's been there all along.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I can't think how to title this so I'll just call it 1


We crave a life of pleasure, but our souls need a life of meaning.

Lately, there have been many...distractions. Leading me away from the essential. I forgot that my plans are not my own, and that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine.

This will be a short post. I'm tired and I know the search will be long. A path upwards from which I've gently, imperceptibly rolled down, carried by the weighted thoughts of each day in college. I know I will make it because I don't walk alone.


Turned on Hillsong United and had instant mood lift:D With renewed energy, I shall just quickly pen down a few mouldy (means, I've thought them more than once-it's sad sometimes how your original, quirky mind disappoints you and starts acting like a MP3 player stuck on replay) thoughts, so that I can now banish them from my mind:

1. Must must must finish Geography assignment, English Oral Commentary and Chem homework while in Ipoh.
2. If everyone knows that McDonald's minces bones, innards and other inedible parts together to make nuggets, why do they taste so meaty and even LOOK like proper chicken meat? Why is it so white then?
3. Life will always be hard if you choose to look at it that way.
4. Diam-diam ubi berisi. Every time.
5. Why are all the good ones taken? Or just plain uninterested?
6. Must update more often. Or else people will get bored and complain. Or they just won't come back. *Gasp*

OK that's all I can think of now. My prose had sadly fallen to pieces for, technically-inept person that I am, I mistakenly erased all the songs I downloaded *minor catastrophe*. Goodbye!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


What happens when you don't know what to feel, because you don't know what is socially acceptable to feel?

Is it ok if I feel down during Christmas dinner, and everyone else is happy?

That didn't exactly happen tonight, but something someone said (or rather, revealed) bit me, and I'm still looking at the wound and thinking, "What next?" Sometimes, there are no words to describe misunderstanding. Misinterpretation. Failure to make yourself understood, failure to be perfect, failure to be a model of what's right but being wrong, all wrong, totally irrevocably wrong.

That dislike, that scorn, the shaking of the head fills me with shame, digs a pit in that cannot be filled, a sucking black hole.

And yet, I ask myself, why? Why do I sometimes, so carelessly, make others feel this way when I know how its like myself? To know, and to have the fact jammed into your face, that you are not perfect (and never will be). That your lack of a firm, stubborn opinion will more often work against you than for you. No one wants a reed, only strong oaks.

And all I am left with are regrets and torn bits of paper and half-smiles and a longing for what could have been.

P/S: Sorry...rather confused and thrown off course at the moment. What if I am everything that is wrong, what if all my reasons are excuses, my answers lies? Can I face myself? I want to go home, I want to run...and I will go home, soon; but the life I lead here will resume once I come back, like taking an old coat off the hanger and wearing it again.

Oh bother. I need counselling. I need someone to tell me what to do. I need to not have a mind of my own, because all my decisions come out all wrong.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The split blog post Part Two

How many times have I said that we experience a whole roller-coaster of emotions everyday, the highs and lows and in-betweens? I think I might not have said it in this blog yet.

But there's another thing that's relevant about the roller-coaster analogy...things recur. Like the tracks that the roller-coaster roars on, however high you go or however fast you hurtle down, you can't get off and you can't change course.

In a sense, we can change the course of our lives. We do it every day, in every little decision that we make. But who controls the net result of our lives? What happens in Siberia when a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa?

The butterfly does not know how its actions may reverbrate through the earth. Similarly, I never thought that actions, words in the past would come back and bite me so nastily in the present. I am reminded once again that you can still make mistakes, huge personal mistakes, with the best intentions. Or at least with good intentions.

Today was a good-BAD-good-good day for me. Perhaps when you add it up together, they cancel out and it turns out to be nothing. So I felt nothing the whole day. But that's not true at all. Which just shows that Math is stupid. You can draw functions and calculate logarithms all you like, but you can never predict human nature.

(Boring Interjection about my real life, as opposed to the life of my mind)

Well...classes were interesting and I managed to proudly hand in my Economics commentary at the same time as others instead of taking the extension which I was granted because of the play I'm in (which has been, quite simply, my life for the last week or so). Goodness came also in the form of the end of United World Theatre (yes Yes YEs YES!) which I enjoyed much and learned much from. I don't think I can ever measure the amount of learning I receive from any one thing...some things come gradually. But now I can proudly say that I have been involved in a theatre production before:D

And also, I got the highest grade possible (a 7) for my English commentary, and thus for my English grade this term:D :D :D The teacher told me I should move back to higher level ("What are you doing at standard level?"), I can get a 7 there too. :D :D :D Pardon my shamelessness, but this was a real boost to my self-esteem, and I don't get that many here...

Which of course, is what I would love to do if only I could arrange my subjects in such a way that I could still attend English HL. WHY must there be only 2 classes for HL? And both those are taken already for me...

OH WELL. Life's like that, and I'm not going to try and manipulate my timetable anymore just so that I can have everything. I've inconvenienced people enough, it's time to grow up and learn to make the best out of things.

What else...oh, the other day in the shower I pondered the ultimate futility of teaching. Just think about it. Someone gives a speech to a 100 people, but each one goes away taking a slightly different message. Each day, we face dozens of misunderstandings: verbal, cultural, body language, mindset...

What's the point of education if each time you teach, the message goes further and further away from the truth, if there was ever a truth to begin with? And why do we think that our own way is always necessarily the best? Each way of doing a certain thing may be equally valid (says me).

It's pretty freaky to think that each time I open my mouth, the person receiving my words is getting a completely different image and interpretation from what I picture. Makes me want to check my words more...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The split blog post Part One

Let's do something different with this blog today! Since I am a bunch of contradictions and tangled thoughtwires today (as I am pretty much all the time, and everybody else in the world too) I will write one part frivolous post and one part a little more serious. Part One is my poem, Part 2 is my life and just...thoughts I have on everything I feel, hear and see. Well, of course not every single thing, but you know what I mean.

Thus, if you are in a lazy mood and just want something to cheer you up, just read part One! If you have nothing better to do, read Part Two as well!

Part One

My life is like a chocolate cake,
with very many flavours.
The base is solid, a foundation for all the richness piled on top-
and yet it is flaky, crumbles in your hand
slides down your throat with no complaint.

Above it, there is a thin layer of dark chocolate
which is sometimes called bitter chocolate (but I don't like that name).
It makes it sound like a necessarily bad thing,
while darkness holds the ambiguity of
horror - quietness
fear - peace
death - calm
and a creeping sense of beauty.
I have been acquainted with pure dark chocolate but a few times in my short life-
but each time it has changed me.

There is a large chunk of traditional cake in me as well...
or whatever you call a cake if it has no topping, no icing, no base,
only what is between the top and the bottom.
That airy fluffy part that keeps the taste of the rest from being too
intense, too dominant
-the filler.
I live in this region most of my waking hours,
going through repetitive motion like a cog on a wheel,
sometimes whizzing up to touch the top or the bottom.

And then there is the icing,
the sweetness that jumps and grabs you in delight
and the hope that the feeling never ends.
There are little sprinkles of icing in every day, for me-
but sometimes, they are so slight, or I am so immune
that I fail to notice it.

There are nuts, too, found randomly in this recipe of me-
the quirks, the oddities
that never go anywhere or mean anything much.
I am not a nut cake. Do not love me just for my nuttiness,
love all of me.
Don't take my nuts away.

Sometimes, I feel like the birthday cake laid out on the table
Hot wax candles stuck into me
Intense scrutiny, exaggerated care
admiration (but at who?)
A spray of saliva (disgusting habit)
and all is black.

And that's where I end my metaphor, for I am not then defeated.
I am an invincible cake!
You eat me today, I will resurface tomorrow!
And I am happy
to be who - and what
I am.