Category Archives: Seriously

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.

Full circle

I may be 32 now, but I will never outgrow pretty cakes

Today I had lunch with Yiu Lin, whom I met in the early days of my career in publishing, and who over the years has become as good a friend as anyone has ever been to me. Even though this lunch was more for my birthday, I saw it as just another chance to catch up because we’re both always so busy that we only end up seeing each other at social events, and even then it’s difficult to have any kind of real conversation at all.

It was during lunch today, when we were talking about how social media has pretty much obliterated any kind of human appeal left in humans, that Yiu Lin burst out, “I mean, we’re in our thirties now; isn’t it time we grow out of that and let it all go?”

It was that statement, among many many others, that resonated with me because it was exactly what I had been turning around in my own mind leading up to my birthday. Every year, on the 13th, I take a bit of time to really think about everything that has transpired since my previous birthday, and I try to evaluate how much has changed in that one year. And this year, I came to the startling, but quite satisfying, conclusion that turning 32 has brought me full circle.

On this day four years ago, I celebrated my 28th birthday by making the decision to remove everything that was toxic and unnecessary in my life (read: my ex-boyfriend), and in a way, it felt as though I had bought my freedom from the guilt that had kept me chained to a fruitless relationship for so long. I spent the next four years on a roller-coaster of lessons and self-discovery. When I turned 29, I had a fun group of friends, some of whom I have remained very close to, and I had put one mistake aside for another mistake which turned out to be the greatest adventure — and now the best decision — of my life. I welcomed 30 feeling on top of the world as I truly believed that I could be happy, at least for a while, despite the gnawing resentment at having to always come in second to someone else. By the time I hit 31, I had also hit rock-bottom and struggling to lift myself out of the emotional sinkhole I had dug myself into, but also determined not to spend another year allowing my self-worth to be questioned and tested at every turn.

Then last week, I turned 32 and got off that ride to begin a new one. It may be purely coincidental that as soon as I entered my thirties I began to see things in a different light, but if the last two birthdays have taught me anything, it’s to remove all the negative aspects of one’s life, and to recognize, acknowledge and retain the positive. So with this birthday, I’ve not only cast off permanently whatever I’ve had to live without in this past year, but also come out with a profound sense of who I am and what I’m capable of.

If this is what coming full circle entails, then I’ll consider it the buttercream floral wreath on top of a 32-year-old cake.

Eight years later: A decision

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

Those who know me best are aware of what an indecisive person I am. Those who don’t know me well mistake that indecisiveness for flexibility, because my response to most questions and suggestions about what to do, where to go and what to eat will be: “Anything.” The truth is, while I am actually flexible most of the time, I’d really rather not impose my own desires upon other people who may not want to eat the same things or go to the same places as I do.

Those who know me best also know that even after I make a decision to do something or go somewhere, it takes me a long time to actually get around to doing it, because I spend ages after that deliberating the pros and cons. This can be a good or bad thing: by the time I decide to get that $850 pair of Gianvito Rossi shoes, chances are they’re already sold out in my size, but that only drives me to search even harder for another website that still stocks them.

So it took a good hard dose of reality last weekend to make me finally decide to regain control of my life, something I had been slipping in since the dawn of the new year. I had been hemming and hawing on it ever since I knew that door could open if I wanted it to, and then even more so when my friends started giving their wedding heads-up and I knew it would be very bad form to decline. But it was when I realized last weekend that I had been putting my plans — and almost my life — on hold for something that had only ever been a fantasy, however short-lived it may be, that I knew it was time to put myself first.

Because today makes it exactly eight years that I’ve been back in Malaysia — eight years during which I have struggled to find myself, my purpose in life, and some sort of reason for coming back here that would ease the pain of being trapped in a life that was being controlled by others. That struggle ceased somewhat after I found someone who could meet me on my own level and make our lives fit seamlessly together. And when I think of how, two years ago, we made plans to leave this place and build a new life together, away from all our mistakes and regrets, I find it inconceivable that those plans and dreams should die just because we were forced to detour into CrazyTown.

But I believe now, more than ever, that everything happens for a reason, and time is merely an excuse to stall because we’re too cowardly to allow them to happen or to ride the wave when it hits. We were brought together for a reason, and we were torn apart for another reason, and only we know what those reasons are. But if living a life that is not dictated by that most childish and most selfish of phrases, “If you don’t want to be with me, fine, but you can’t be with anyone else”, means having to leave this place and start over somewhere else, then I am prepared to journey as far as reason can take me.