Author Archives: Sandra Foo

Ten years later: Stalemate

Larnaca, Cyprus

It has been a recurring theme in my life over the last year and a half, slowly gaining momentum until today, when I can finally, truly say this: I have come full circle.

Exactly 10 years ago today, I stepped off a Singapore Airlines plane, angry, bitter, but hopeful. I had come back to my home country, entirely against my will, yet somehow driven to do so: I had been (literally) abandoned by a man who had walked out my door one very normal day and just disappeared from my life the next day, without so much as a pour prendre congé, and I was also unable to find paid work that would help me stay on in a country that I had always thought of as my refuge. So I had finally thrown in the towel and decided to move out of the U.S. after I acquired my TEFL Certification to teach English, and even though my parents never said it out loud, they were relieved I was coming back, if only to save themselves the humiliation of having an unemployable daughter in an economically unsound country.

My return was not without its caveat. As I packed up my apartment in Buffalo, then Boston, and made arrangements for my personal effects to be shipped back to my childhood home, I swore that I would not become one of those kids whose ‘life abroad’ meant getting a degree from a foreign university. I resolved to come back and regroup, grow up, and learn everything I would need to know in order to find my way out into the world again — and all within 10 years. So I gave up the life and the people I had loved in the U.S. for nearly five years, and came back to Malaysia, my parents, and a handful of friends whom I still had here.

But that was 10 years ago — a full decade during which I changed jobs more times than I would have liked to admit, dated and slept with men whom I now pretend don’t exist, and ran around in social circles that mutated before my very eyes. And with all three categories — work, relationships and friends — I realized that I would never quite fit in. Oh, I discovered what I was good at professionally, I made some great friends who have lasted nearly as long as I’ve been here, and I met someone who would turn out to be my greatest love, but I knew that the life I had here was never going to be the life I truly wanted.

And so, over the last four years, the seed that I had planted in my own mind began to grow, and for a while it seemed as though everything I had thought about, talked over and cried for would really come to fruition. I thought that for once in my life, something I had planned for could really work out the way I wanted, and better yet, it could all happen with the love of my life by my side. But if there is one thing the last 10 years have taught me, and that I should have remembered, it’s that nothing ever works out the way I planned it to, especially not when the stakes and expectations are so high that I’m at constant risk of losing everything.

So here I am now, 10 years later, full circle: still in this country, still angry and bitter, with only a handful of friends whom I’ve somehow managed to keep, and having failed to keep my decade-old resolution of finding my way out again. My only consolation is that despite being only 23 years old when I made that resolution, my feelings about it have not changed; if anything, they have been further intensified by everything that I have seen, everyone I have met, and all the lessons I’ve had to learn in this decade. And as I look at the coming months, I can only hope that in the face of so much loss, there can only be that much more to gain.

Chin up

Scarlett O’Hara: The inspiration for my resting bitch face

Probably from the time I was old enough to talk, I was taught that to be considered a lady, I had to learn to walk and run in heels, keep my chin up, never show any emotion or expression in public, and never let people know what I was thinking or feeling, because it was a sign of weakness. The only problem was, it’s hard to not show emotion when the emotion you feel more than anything else is hatred.

We all try to put up the bravest front we can at every opportunity, as part of the defense mechanism that develops along with puberty. And yet that only makes us think more about our problems and try to deal with them ourselves, and in the process drag ourselves even further down, until we’re in an emotional hole so deep it would take six firemen to get us out. When will we learn that sometimes it’s OK to face uncertainty over certain things? That it’s OK to be afraid of being alone? That it’s OK to sometimes give in to the desperation that sweeps over us? That it’s OK to take as much time as we need to mend a broken heart?

Sometimes when I’m at home and allow the ringing silence to take over, I feel like just packing up and going to Colombia, because I might never make it to Cyprus. When I think of everything I’ve had to give up, in order to even dream about Cyprus, I feel like just giving up and going home to my mother so that I can bawl my eyes out in her lap. When I think of my mother, I feel like going home just so I know that at least she won’t break my heart and leave me alone for at least another few years. When I think of the heart that’s been broken so many times that it will never fully heal, I feel like putting all the ex-boyfriends, and some wives, on a hitlist and slowly and methodically killing them off one by one. When I think of that hitlist, I know that even mass murder will never mend my broken heart and take away the humiliation. And when I think of the humiliation I’ve had to face over and over again for the last 18 years, my bitter and cynical side takes over and I wonder how I can ever afford to show any emotion in public, at the risk of betraying the pain that I bear day in and day out.