Category Archives: Epiphanies

Get up and try

I’ve never been much of a risk-taker. When I was a little girl, I learned to sing and dance from watching Old Hollywood musicals, but I was such a coward about doing it in public that my mother forced me to take proper opera singing lessons, join a choir, and go for ballet and gymnastics. When I moved to Buffalo, I was so terrified of failing the Royal Pitches and University Choir auditions that I wasted my first semester hemming and hawing about whether or not I should actually audition.

When I moved back to Malaysia and got a taste of working in public relations, I decided that I hated it enough to want to leave and finally become a writer, but I was afraid that publishers wouldn’t find my writing good enough to want to hire me. So I wasted three years whining about how much I hated my career and lamenting my lot in life. (In retrospect, I can’t complain too much; working in public relations taught me everything I needed to know about how to survive working in a country like this)

Then when it came to relationships, I was adamant that none of them could be a long-distance one, because I knew my own insecurities would never be able to survive a relationship that was defined by an ocean (or three). So few people would be more surprised than I am to discover that I am now in a long-distance relationship.

I, the most insecure and jaded person I know, am in a relationship, if one can call it so, that for the last two months, has been defined by a body of water.

It’s something I never really wanted to think about up until a couple of weeks ago, primarily because it’s something that I never thought would happen again after my last long-distance relationship went up in flames. But now that I’ve had two whole months entirely to myself, I’ve had more than enough time to think, absorb and process everything and put certain things about this into perspective.

People ask me how I survive this, how I go from one day to the next just waiting for a call or a WhatsApp message, or waiting for him to either tell me that he’s coming back, or to finally pack up my life and join him, when they know I’ve never been the most patient in all other aspects of my life. Half the time I have to wonder at it myself, as I never in my wildest dreams — or nightmares — thought I would be the kind of woman who would get into a relationship like this, especially one that involves me putting myself at risk of getting hurt every single day, let alone do it a second time four years after the first go-round crumbled about my ears. But I tell them that the waiting is actually the easiest part by comparison.

Because when you have to learn to set aside your differences in order to have a relationship that isn’t rife with resentment, the waiting is easy. When you have to learn to prioritize and focus on what is most important in keeping a relationship like this alive, the waiting is easy. When you have to decide whether certain things are worth fighting over or better off being left alone, the waiting is easy. When you have to tell yourself every single waking moment of the day that this is the life you signed up for and you don’t get to cry or rage over it because you chose it, the waiting is easy.

I don’t know where all my waiting will take me, and if I must be honest, I have to prepare myself for the possibility that it may not take me anywhere at all. But right now I know that as long as I never forget why I got into this in the first place, how I’m going to survive in it, and what we could stand to gain if everything turns out the way we want, I could wait the rest of my life.

An unending high

The one constant about Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week is its enduring tardiness. Every single show starts at least an hour late, with a lot of waiting in between, and a general air of disinterest because almost every show features a few designers whom nobody has ever heard of. As a result, the only good thing about the shows running late is that you get to catch up with people you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while, and — if you’re lucky enough to be seated at the top row — judge everyone you see together.

Yesterday, I ran into a friend who was attending some of the same shows as I was, and it was then that I learned she had just started seeing someone new, and because he was so new, they were still in what people like to call the ‘honeymoon phase’ of their relationship. As a self-professed relationship addict who has been in long-term relationships her entire adult life, this friend told me that she is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, indicating that the honeymoon phase would be over and she would start seeing the bad parts of the relationship. And at one point she said, “You’ve been with Dani a long time. When does the honeymoon phase end?”

“Tell me your definition of the honeymoon phase,” I hedged.

She said, “To me, the honeymoon phase is like this period where nothing goes wrong, we’re always happy and I can’t wait to see him every day.”

Whether or not that was really just her concept of the honeymoon phase, or if she was projecting off a statistically-proven phenomenon, it made one thing very clear to me, which I said aloud to her: “Then there is no such thing as a honeymoon phase.”

She goggled at me, so I quickly followed up with “If that is what you think the honeymoon phase is, then whether or not it ends is up to you, and the one you’re with. I don’t think there was ever a honeymoon phase for me, because after three and a half years, I still can’t wait to see him every day.”

The cheesiness of that statement was not lost on me, even as I said it. Because it took me 15 years and far too many men to realize that, as important as trust and honesty are in a relationship, what matters more than anything else is compatibility, because with that compatibility comes the emotional support that no on else, not even friends and family, can give.

“At the end of the day, if he can give you that emotional support you seek, there is no reason that after three months or three years, you can’t still be happy. Of course men are annoying, and of course things will go wrong, but if he works with you to make them right, then it’s not even so much that the honeymoon phase doesn’t end, but more that there was never a need for one, because what you are to each other will always stay the same.”

Nine years later: Home stretch

Larnaca, Cyprus

Firstly, I would like to apologize for my absence on this website. To those of you who sent me messages, emails and even Tweets asking if something had happened to me, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your concern, especially since some of you told me you’ve been a reader for more than a decade. I’m aware that my responses were somewhat vague and perhaps a little generic, but I do assure you that I’m fine, health-wise.

What I did not mention in my responses is that for the last three months, I have been in a transient phase of sorts. Dani and I have been trying to figure out our next step in life, exploring any avenues we can that will allow us to tie up our existence in this country as neatly as possible, set it on fire, and rebuild our life in a different part of the world. To that end, my mind has been on anything but writing, and I probably would not be writing this today were it not a very important milestone.

For today marks the end of my ninth — NINTH — year back in this country, and the beginning of the end of my life here. When I left my lonely but independent life behind in New York, nine years ago, and came back to an even lonelier subsistence here, it was with a vow to myself that, within a decade, I would find my way out again. Not to New York, if I couldn’t make it that far, but to anywhere else where I could start a new life on my own, away from all the reasons that I left here in the first place.

This date still holds its importance for me, because it is a constant reminder to myself to never get too comfortable here, and to never back down from my goal to be out of here before my 10 years are up. And if the last three months are of any indication, it’s that I have definitely overstayed my welcome in this country, and the time has come for me to let go of all the things I once thought I needed to live a life that meant something, but now seem so insignificant.

So here we are in the home stretch of our tenure in this country. We came, we saw, and we did conquer it for a little while, but we’re ready to go back under our rock now.