A Temporary Respite

This week was by far one of the busiest and most stressful weeks since university started. I had property and criminal law seminars which involved 80 pages of textbook reading, six cases, three mooting speeches to prepare, two problem questions to solve and an essay to write. This led to late nights which led to headaches which led to my disastrous fear and paranoia of headaches which led to crying at half past midnight over Skype and sporadic nightmares. The night before I had to present my two-minute (it was only two minutes but my throat still seizes up whenever I have to speak up in normal circumstances in seminars and everyone in my class is so intimidating, the lecturer included) mooting speech at my criminal law seminar in front of everyone, I barely slept and couldn’t eat after waking up so after the hour-long seminar finished (which concluded my seminars for the week as well), I felt the heaviest burden lift off my shoulders because I’d survived the week and even had Black Friday sales to look forward to as a reward for the relatively shitty week I’d just had.

Not to be dramatic but as soon as we left Williamson building, the sky looked clearer, the weather nicer, and my pimples also probably cleared up for a while there. If this was a descriptive novel, I’d even say I walked with a spring in my step. Probably skipped down the road if I wanted to be hyperbolic. That was how happy and relieved I felt, probably the lightest I’d felt in a very, very long time.

While crossing the road, Yee Lin said to me, “You could blog about this,” and I replied, “Yes, I definitely could.”

So at 2PM after class, Ee Min, Yee Lin, Ash and I headed for Arndale after having oily fried chicken for lunch at McTucky’s (healthy food be damned, now that my heightened anxiety had been diminished, I was in the mood for extreme comfort food). Arndale was even more packed than usual, and I savoured the moments of solitary window shopping, even ending up at Cathedral Street which I never even knew had existed before this. It felt like I was visiting the city of Manchester for real for the first time.

The crowds weren’t as crazy as I’d expected and the sales as good as I’d anticipated so my only haul for the day were a two-litre bottle of milk, a carton of 10 eggs, two boxes of cereal, an air freshener and a pack-of-six toilet rolls, like the Adult that I am. Until I was enabled by Ee Min to get a pair of new shoes which were on 50% discount and then we finally made our weary way home in the rain as I started to feel the fatigue from the lack of sleep the previous night settling in my bones.

That night I even had a mini Thanksgiving dinner at Rumin’s flat with her flatmates and also Jia Yang, Choo Chin and Brian and it was a really, really good feast. I can never exhaust the usage of superlatives in my writing but. One of the best tasting meals I’ve had here so far? I’d probably say so.

The night ended with a Noragami Aragoto episode and also a short hangout with Taliza and Karu which involved a lot of weeaboo-shaming and jaw-aching laughter until 3 in the morning . And now before the weekend ends, I just want to savour the minimal leisure time I can afford to have before the next week rolls in and I’m faced with another round of textbook and case readings that attempt yet again to pull me under.

I wake up with a sour feeling in my gut every morning.

Usually it comes accompanied with the feeling of loss, perhaps indicative of a dream of the past that I’d just woken up from; something that has slipped from my fingers, irrevocably irretrievable. It doesn’t go well with the sunlight seeping through the crevices of the curtains or the heaviness of my duvet. It feels strange. Out of place.

We are approaching Week 7 of classes. It’s November. Time seems to be moving so fast but not fast enough, but only probably because I am far too aware of it for it to pass by exponentially as it did during college.

And that is all I’ve been doing: looking back. Preferring to wallow in the impossibility of history than actually doing something about the present within my control. I stumbled upon Tycho on Youtube the other day and started listening to them non-stop on Spotify while reading, and it was exactly what I’ve been looking for but in music form. I wasn’t even consciously paying attention to it, but it somehow sneaked into my head and settled into the grooves that had been availably empty for a year or so. It was so compatible, in the sense that I didn’t even have to listen to it twice to immediately take a liking to it. It triggered a switch that opened the floodgates of emotions that once were, things that I hadn’t felt since coming here, thought I would never feel again. And I miss it. I miss it so much that if I close my eyes while the music plays, I can probably trick myself into believing that I am back at where I want to be the most again.

But at the end of it, I have to open my eyes, just like waking up from a dream that you don’t even remember and yet feel the emotional repercussions of it.

Because all this does is remind me of how inadequate I feel through and through as a university student, a friend, a 20-year-old, a human being. Of seeing everyone else feeling just fine, better than fine and not having any qualms about Social Interactions capital S capital I — and wondering where exactly I went wrong. — I know this isn’t true, of course. I don’t know everyone’s feelings and stories and I have no right to reduce them to merely what is shown on the outside (God forbid this is one of my worst fears, of people only seeing me as what is shown on the outside, which is Incredibly Not A Lot) but like I said it’s already Week 7, freshers week and orientation already feels like light years away, so why do I still feel so uncomfortable in my own skin? Why am I still so bad with people? What is this horrible dread that settles upon me at the prospect of talking to new people even though I want to, want to make new friends and blend in? Where did these pre-notions of “I’m too uninteresting, sensitive and passive for anyone’s time” come from? Who is this timid hermit that has lost so much from what she used to have during college? And I feel, ultimately, the weight derived from the pressure to have fun, to be outgoing and take on the role of a social butterfly and join all the events and travel everywhere otherwise I’m not doing the whole University Thing right stems from heavy comparisons. Arguably with other people, but really it’s mostly with myself and who I used to be.

I feel like, by actively shrinking away from these, from socials and crowds and everything, I’m missing out on another great beginning. I’m missing out. I’m missing out on so much yet I feel most comfortable and relaxed when I come back to the non-judgmental confines of my room and glow of my laptop screen because outside of it, I stutter trying to form words verbally and avoid eye contact because I don’t know, I don’t know how to do it. I give up on making an effort completely because I already feel the self-inflicted rejection before it has even happened.

So I stick to studying, because academics and grades have always been the one constant in my life since kindergarten. All my life my self-worth has been largely invested in my grades and nothing else, and it’s the only thing I feel fairly confident that I have a strong foot in now, so I cling onto it for dear life and try to ignore the fact that I’m not exactly certain why I’m studying what I’m studying. Singlehandedly, I bulldozed my whole principle of “prioritize self-growth around other people over your studies” that I’ve been trying to indoctrinate within myself since the the last few years of high school right up until now. Singlehandedly, I rendered all my advice about taking the first step of courage to anons on ask.fm obsolete. Compared to everything else, reading criminal law cases is an easier and more predictable feat and having lost all the self-esteem and confidence that I’ve somehow managed to build up in college, I blatantly feed myself with consolations that as long as I do my reading, I’m on the right track, because it’s the only thing I know how to do anymore.

But just like everything else, staying alone in my room eventually becomes an ironic paradox as the comfort dissipates and I’m left facing my own ugly thoughts of feeling the L word* and aimless and invisible. It feels isolating being in a crowded room of people, like there is an impenetrable barrier preventing me from forging stable connections, but even after I escape to solitude, the barrier doesn’t quite dissolve, making me feel so incredibly minute in the heterogeneous sea of existences I am surrounded with.

(*Loneliness. I refrain from saying it because I sure am mightily antisocial and reclusive for someone who constantly gripes about being lonely all the time.)

All too sudden, Skype calls with my parents and videos of my dog sent through Whatsapp feel so unreachable. Just pixels on a screen, no more different from a video game I play on my laptop or an anime episode I stream online, and that’s so…sad. That is all I will ever get. Not even a physical touch of reassurance to remind me sometimes that yes, I am worth something, more than what my mind constantly feeds me with. The only time I allow myself moments of vulnerability involve breaking down in front of a webcam, because if that’s the only safe space I’m going to get, I’ll take it. And somehow it is not enough. There is nothing I wouldn’t trade for a day or even an hour of being able to feel completely safe and secure and reassured in the presence of the certainty of care and warmth and encouragement. Why am I here when there is so much love and tenderness readily awaiting me back home? Because all I can feel lately is a floaty sort of detached wandering, the feeling of not belonging, of wondering if it will even go noticeable if I never leave my room again. And what frustrates me is despite all this, despite longing so greatly for affection, I allow little room for that to happen because I don’t know how, and also because I am already vulnerable enough without opening up to expose my wounds as an invitation for increased attacks.

I know I am in no position to mope when I am privileged, so, so privileged to be here, an opportunity so great that many would very much willingly trade places with me for. I acknowledge that, and I know I should be grateful for what I have. But it rarely feels like I have anything to hold onto, and everyday is just a challenge to see how much tinier I can feel in this world that is already too large to find a home in.

On the worst of days, I wake up from nightmares. It doesn’t go well with the sunlight seeping through the crevices of the curtains or the heaviness of my duvet. It feels frightening. Out of place. If there is a place to begin with.

Remember, Remember




The fifth of November.

There was such a huge crowd surrounding the bonfire that I had to squint to make sure there wasn’t something I was missing out in the fire because the mob, as large as a concert turnout, was just standing around, staring into the fire. It drizzled for the whole day so our shoes were muddy tokens of entrance as we jostled against the thronging crowd, dialling six numbers in one go because the massive human horde was crowding out phone signals. And then the fireworks appeared, peals of high pitch squeals announcing the arrival of colourful sparks embellishing the night sky and leaving warped smoke trails in its wake. It was nice. It made me feel like I was Participating and I was, the night being my first Guy Fawkes Day experience.

Yee Lin and Nicole went on one of the fun fair rides and I watched from afar, still ever so skeptical about the concept of roller coasters and then before the night ended, we went to Evelyn’s place at Denmark Road for the final celebration of Chun Chuan’s birthday.

It was one of the better nights I’ve had.

* (You’re filled with DETERMINATION.)

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 午後5.18.20

It’s November, the penultimate month of the year and yet it feels like this year barely started at all. I’ll always have a wonky relationship with the concept of time; one minute I’ll gripe that it moves too slowly, the next too quickly. As it is, it’s Week 6 in Manchester and I’m in the middle of my reading week (which is apparently a thing in university for students to catch up on their reading. It’s kind of ominous that there is a need for this).

Karu came over from Loughborough for the weekend and it was honestly so refreshing to hang out with an old friend and being able to resume a semblance of ease and familiarity of a different life I’d led. It was like trying to partially merge two different timelines in my life (Sunway and Manchester) and the result was…peculiar, but not in a bad way at all. I went to my first MUJS (animesoc) meeting on Friday night where I did manage to make some new friends while my group unexpectedly won second place for anime quiz night and I brought back Kiki’s Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky postcards. After the event, I rushed to the Chorlton Street coach station to pick up Karu.

It was Halloween the next day and there was a Halloween mini-con event I wanted to check out so we went to All Saints Park for a while but left after I took a photo with these two Hitachiin twins cosplayers because we weren’t…cosplaying and just standing around and I couldn’t stand the awkwardness. So we went to Chinatown to shop for Japanese food ingredients instead.

Karu taught me how to cook udon and so that was what we had for lunch after coming back to Weston. After that, because we are both generally very lazy people who didn’t particularly want to go on city explorations on a Saturday evening, we played volleyball for an hour in my common room. At night, Preethi invited us to the MUJS Halloween party at Rusholme and since we didn’t really have any plans, we agreed. It said ‘party’ but really it was just a bunch of anime enthusiasts turning up in cosplays to hang out and talk about, well, anime.

We had mediterranean midnight dinner at Curry Mile and then stayed up till 5AM on another Google hangout session with our NYC correspondent, Bellyn Ooi.

Karu left the next day and I spent the next two days literally cooped up in my room the entire day (leaving only to obtain food twice), playing Undertale and losing all concept of time (especially so with daylight savings when the sun starts to set at 4PM). For the past week, my entire Twitter feed was Undertale hype and I was so curious to see what it was all about so when I finally got to play it, I couldn’t stop at all and I was so enamoured by the brilliant execution and dimensional characters (#irony because they are pretty much just 8-bit pixels) and “morality principle” theme they had going on and the ending was absolutely amazing and emotional and I? bawled my eyes out until my jacket sleeves were entirely soaked through because a freaking indie RPG game was making me face my emotions and cheering me on from a screen and I suppose that triggered something that I’d fiercely clamped down on for a very long time now.

It’s been a while since (I can’t even really call it that, but I can’t think of any other term) fandom investment has affected me this strongly. It usually only happens when I’m not invested in anything else. Real life, for example.

Sometimes I still get bouts of wtf-am-I-doing-here-ness that never really seem like it went away completely since day one and being schedule-less during reading week kind of intensified that and subsequently, homesickness really strongly. It comes and goes. Sometimes it stays longer than it pays its rent for, but I don’t have the energy to chase it out so it resides uncomfortably while I stare daggers at it.

Some days are better though, and I’d use the analogy of bright skies vs dark clouds if we don’t get only seven hours of daylight as winter approaches.

PS. If you have the time and the curiosity…please play Undertale because it is honestly such a good game and also so I can scream excitedly at you about it

2AM Fried Chicken at Curry Mile


I went to stay over at Ee Min’s the last weekend at Opal Gardens, and after playing ping pong and observing a group of Ee Min’s housemates play beer pong at the common room well into the night, Ash suddenly suggested we cycle to Etihad Stadium at midnight. Needless to say, I chickened out of that because it would take about 20 minutes to reach there by bike and we ended up just going to Curry Mile right next to Victoria Park for fried chicken.

Despite it being so late at night, Curry Mile was the opposite of empty, streets and roads-wise. It was my first time riding a bike in so long and on the bicycle lane right next to the road at that so I was really unstable and anxious during the ride there but halfway through I just threw in the yolo towel after being pretty sure that we weren’t going to be in any imminent danger.

It was also my first time having fried chicken in the UK. The English are not as gung-ho about KFC as Malaysians, it seems.

The ride back was more relaxed, and I allowed myself the opportunity to take in the bright lights of Curry Mile (not exactly New-York-City-skyscrapers material but vibrant signboards advertising 24-hour fast food joints and nightclubs will do), breathe in the lingering shisha scents in certain districts and feel the sharp, cold approaching-winter wind against my face, numbing all sensors and stinging my eyes but deriving gratification from the adrenaline these all brought, however short-lived it might be.

We reached Opal Gardens at around 4AM and I woke up the next day with a sore throat but the night’s event was a nice blip in my comfort radar.

I’ve been supremely unadventurous and languorous since coming here, I’m not entirely sure why. All I feel nowadays is tired and sad and hungry and honestly, I’m just trying to lowkey survive in this weird world of wintery whiteness, seeking refuge within the anime posters-plastered walls of my room playing Undertale or, well, writing blogposts.

Lo(st)ndon – dated October 19, 2015

A month after coming to the UK, my phone got stolen.

  1. First came the immediate panic of petting down my coat and shorts pockets followed by a frantic search in my bag right in the middle of an aisle on the ground floor of Monki on Carnaby Street, all the time thinking “I’ve scared myself shitless multiple times before, this time won’t be any different. It’ll probably turn up in my pocket or in my bag any time now” but feeling my heart sink every time my palms turned up empty.
  2. Then came the announcement from Janice that “it stopped ringing” and so did my heart but I fought to think of what’s next, what’s next that I can do to stop my phone getting further away from me because the alternative would be to launch into a full-fledged panic and I couldn’t be having that when I still at least had the chance to maybe do something. In the middle of enquiring about CCTV footage and being told the person behind the counter didn’t have the power to do that, I walked out of the shop multiple times, just staring people up and down, crime investigation TV serial shows flashing dramatically across my mind in a state of desperation, making me believe for the slightest moment the most absurd notion that I might catch the thief red-handed by, I don’t know, noticing someone’s fishy behaviour or maybe being noticed and chased after by a vigilant passerby but that’s not true, because they are exactly what they are, exaggerated TV tropes to reel people in from the absolute realness of real life.
  3. And then the dawn of realisation that my phone, my safety anchor of distractions and reassurances and also storage vault of photos and messages, was truly gone. Thousands of people walking up and down Oxford Street with their phones in their hands or pockets yet I was the one to have fallen victim (later on in the police station, I received a phone call from Ee Min in distress telling me that her phone had also been pick-pocketed in the exact same fashion as mine with an hour interval between our incidents a few miles away at Borough Market). But what felt the worst was the absolute helplessness of it all; it all happened so fast and theory dictated that something could be salvaged only if I acted quick enough (three-second rule and all its variations) but even after doing all I could do, searching Monki repeatedly, erasing my phone at the Apple store, lodging a report at the police station, they were merely necessary steps I coerced myself into focusing upon so I didn’t have the time to stop and throw a pity party for myself. London was so big but at the moment I felt so, so minute in this huge bustling city of hectic activities and rushing people.
  4. At the police station, there was a giant poster with the words “BEWARE OF PICK-POCKETS, DON’T LET A STOLEN PROPERTY RUIN YOUR DAY” and I could only be the human embodiment of the laugh-cry emoji
  1. Getting a new phone immediately the day after because I didn’t know if I could cope with the 5-hour coach ride back to Manchester without any form of distraction, accompanied only by my intrusive and self-abasing thoughts that would lead to god knows what.
  2. Feeling the highest degree of guilt and disappointment at myself for being so weak and pampered with the immediate remedy of a new replacement and not enough punishment because it seemed that I was angrier at myself than my parents even were.
  3. And yet unable to even fathom the rest of my days without my phone because it has always been the one thing connecting me to other people, the one thing that allows me to call for help anytime and anywhere especially when I am alone.

The tainting of The Thing aside, it was so great to see Janice again, a familiar face in a stringently foreign environment that still keeps me on my toes. It provided a warming sense of comfort made better with Malaysian food escapades at the Malaysian Hall and Roti King at Euston as well as a transatlantic Google hangout with Bellyn till 4AM.

Places don’t really mean anything, it’s the people that matter the most, and I keep thinking about this because if this is true, then what am I doing here?