Category Archives: Musings

A new age

Every time I go on vacation, I start making mental notes of what I need to bring with me, what I have to stock up on for my trip, and how I can, hopefully, avoid overpacking. This mental note-taking begins as early as two weeks before I actually get on the plane, followed by the stocking up, but the packing never, ever happens until one day before I fly. While this is a habit I just picked up during my childhood, it was over the last six years that I consciously decided to only pack the day before because that minimized the opportunities for my cats to settle themselves in my suitcase, resulting in them having to be scooped out of said suitcase several times a day.

So when I began my packing for my annual — and final — trip to Buffalo, it dawned on me how quickly the process had suddenly become. And it was with a jolt that I realized for the first time in nearly six and a half years, I could pack without having to chase my cats out of my suitcase every few minutes — because this year, there are no more cats in my house.

It’s something that I’ve spent the latter half of the year bracing myself for. Somewhere along the way of our plans to move to Cyprus, I was compelled to face up to the reality that it would be highly impractical, not to mention dangerous, to bring my cats along with me. We would, most likely, be living in a significantly smaller apartment, keeping the windows open for much of the day, and it would be too difficult to keep the cats under lock and key, even if it were for their own safety. Even more worrying is the risk of them dying or getting lost in cargo en route to Cyprus. And so it was that I resolved to find them all good homes to go to, in pairs: Simba and Stella went to a friend, Costa and Allegra went to my parents, and Sebasti├ín and Offa — my Offa — went to another friend. And as I learned to live with fewer and fewer cats over the last five months, finally spending my last two nights in my house with no cats at all, it dawned on me just how much my life has changed, and was about to change.

I arrived in Buffalo two and a half weeks ago, on my 33rd birthday, as it were. Over the last 18 days, I have been faced with several glaring, but liberating, truths. Three years ago, when I came back to Buffalo for the first time since moving back to Malaysia, it was with the idea that I needed to escape the harsh realities of my life and my relationship, which were always thrown into greater relief during the Christmas and New Year period. When I came here last year, it was, again, under the illusion that I would not, could not, spend the holidays alone once again. This year, I planned to come back and stay twice as long as I usually did, determined, once more, not to be on my own in my silent house, when life, my relationship, and all my plans for the future remained so uncertain.

But in the time that I have been here, I’ve realized that what I’ve really been doing is, as always, running away from the changes in my life. When I turned 32 last year, it was with the acknowledgement that my life had finally come full circle since I moved back to Malaysia nearly a decade ago: I had come back with nothing and nobody in my corner, and I was prepared to leave in the same fashion. My life has changed ever more drastically this year: spent in the company of my own thoughts, and the handful — as always, literally one hand-full — of people who have always accepted me the way I am. I’ve spent 2017 in virtual isolation from society and the circles I used to run in, but I’ve also never been more content. And now — especially in the days since I turned 33 — I finally understand what it means to come full circle: as it was when I restarted my life in Malaysia nearly a decade ago, I no longer care about conforming or fitting in, because I was always only ever meant to march to the beat of my own drum.

And now, with the prospect of starting a new year with a new life, in a new place, and with the one person I love more than anything, I can see, more clearly than ever, that life is so much more than the four walls we have been given. All we need is the courage to reach out and take it for ourselves. It is literally, for me, a new age.

The fear of God

My family has never been a religious one. For as long as I can remember, my family has never celebrated anything religion-oriented, not even Christmas (their annual business-gathering-disguised-as-a-Christmas-party notwithstanding). Maybe that was why, at the age of twelve, I decided to become a Roman Catholic, so that I would have some form of belief system. For the first five years after being Confirmed, I attended Mass every single Sunday, took Communion, went for probably more Confessions than were appropriate for someone my age, and read the Bible in both English and Latin. Then when I was 17, my father opened his first restaurant (perfectly timed, no doubt, to begin right after I was done with high school), and I was enslaved to the business, which marked the end of Mass and my days as a good Catholic.

I’ve never really considered myself a ‘religious’ person, but I’ve always harbored the childish notion that God really is watching and listening to everyone, whether they deserve it or not. It is perhaps this notion that lies behind the meaning of ‘the fear of God’. We may want something, but if we want it for the wrong reasons, God would choose not to give it to us. If we get what we want by the wrong means, God would let us have it for a while, and then take it away from us the same way we took it for ourselves. And if we’re waiting for something, but decide to give up waiting because we think we’ve waited long enough, God might decide that we don’t deserve it because we simply lacked the patience and faith.

What is it that keeps us hanging on and holding out for something? Is it our absolute determination to have it, and our unswerving faith that if we are patient enough, it will come to us? Even when we know it’s a lost cause, do we hold on for dear life in the hope that it will all eventually work out for us? Or are we just afraid that God will observe how we handle ourselves during these hard times, and then make the final decision as to who deserves what?

A decade ago, my very first tattoo artist told me, “I’ve learned in my old age that if something doesn’t happen now, it just means that there’s something greater out there waiting to happen soon.” If that were true, then would we still be hanging around to see if what we’ve been waiting for all these months would ever happen to us, or would we just let it go in pursuit of that ‘something greater’? Wouldn’t God then decide that we are undeserving of either one and in the end leave us with nothing? Do we continue, then, to float along in this limbo that we’ve created for ourselves, too afraid to go back, and yet too uncertain to move forward?

Cleaning out my life

Some things (and people) just need taking down a peg or four

Two weeks ago, I officially moved back into my own house. By ‘officially’ I mean I went back to living in my house full-time, as opposed to living in Dani’s apartment while still maintaining my own residence. And after three and a half years of shuttling back and forth between two houses, it was quite the task consolidating my entire life back under just one roof.

One problem was the matter of stuff. I hadn’t realized just how many things, especially clothes, I had acquired in three and a half years, and just kept in my closet in Dani’s apartment because that was where I was most of the time. So when it came time to move all of it back to my own house, I realized I was going to have to do some serious spring-cleaning in order to fit all of it in.

So in my first week of living in my house again, I finally found it in myself to get rid of the clothes I wore when I held a corporate job, clothes I’ve had since I was 18, clothes that I had been holding onto for no other reason I can think of than that I was thinking I might one day have to wear them again. Everything went into the big blue Ikea bags, to be given away to my maid and to my mother’s nurses, and the more I cleared out, the more I wanted to get rid of.

One week later, I had given away everything I knew I would never wear again. I then moved on to putting in storage the clothes I knew I wouldn’t need anytime soon: all my evening gowns and heavy winter coats went into vacuum-seal bags. And by the end of it, I had my whole life back in one place.

Today, I put all my handbags back into their respective dustbags, set aside the ones I would give away, as well as the ‘serious adult’ bags that will go to my mother because I will probably not need them in the near future. When I was finished, the feeling of seeing my closet emptier and more organized now was one of liberation. I had literally removed my baggage.

It’s something I’ve been struggling with ever since the year began. In the last quarter of 2016, I had come to terms with the drastic, but inevitable, shift in my life that would lead to my isolation. I knew, perhaps all along, that there would always be one part of my life that was not meant to last, mainly because I had entered it much too late in life, and it was not something that I had ever really gotten used to. I had spent the formative years of my adolescence moving from one country to another, staying in each one long enough to make friends, but not long enough to learn how to keep them. So it was that I entered adulthood never having learnt to form any kind of emotional attachment to people, hence the one hand-full of people whom I can still call my friends today.

This change has become easier to deal with over the past three or four months, especially with the impending prospect of finally leaving this country. It may have something to do with my growing intolerance for so many things that are wrong with this country and its society, or it may just be that I realized that life — the life filled with events and parties and fashion shows and group photos taken for the sake of showing off on Instagram — may not really be for me. Whatever the reason, I’ve retreated back into my shell ever since Dani left to begin building our new life, and I’ve never been more content to sit in my own bubble until it comes time for me to join him.

Tomorrow I will start on the shoes. For someone who’s always loved her shoes, that’s just one more step towards my freedom.