Category Archives: Seriously

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√°n 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.

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.

The continuum bubble

Frozen but flowing

Two days ago, I had coffee with someone who had discovered that I’m back in Buffalo for Christmas and New Year, and wanted to meet up because it’s been more than 10 years since we saw each other. We have somewhat of a history, this person and I, which left more of an impression on him (if the seven-hour drive up from Brooklyn is any indication) than it did on me. Still, we caught up over coffee and talked about what we had done with and to ourselves since we last spoke, and by the end of it, I like to think he had gotten some of the closure he’d driven seven hours for.

Yesterday, however, it dawned on me that he had never changed since we were in college, and whatever feelings of goodwill I had towards him the day before swiftly dissipated. While it made me a little indignant, it also left me with the same concession I had felt on my birthday: that this was just part of the lesson I had had to learn this year, coming full circle with the people who have stayed in or left my life for one reason or another.

2016 was, for me, like the coming-of-age novel I never wanted to write. I started it on a high — literally — thinking that I had found my way out of the cesspool that was Empire: Lebanon, only for that high to come crashing down around my ears within just three months. And even though things got a little better once work began on the restaurant, I was torn between being happy that I could spend those last months with Dani, but also dying for him to move back to Lebanon so that I could be free of the emotional chokehold his ex-wife had held me in for a full year.

And suddenly, before the year was half over, the tide turned and suddenly, we were faced with the very real prospect of being in a very real relationship from that point. And while it was everything that I had waited two and a half years for, it also meant having to deal with a fallout of sorts, and it’s a fallout that I’m still learning to manage.

I had gained everything I wanted at the price of so many other things I had already had, which was what led me to decide by the time I turned 32 that I would no longer hold on to the things I had to do without this year, and instead focus on what would be important for the future we always talked about. And as my bubble grows smaller and smaller with every decision that I make, my only hope for 2017 is that the world will finally open up to us again.