sunflower still grows at night

this is just a post for the sake of writing in february.

it’s been a month of drafting agreements, meeting family and friends for the new year, eating less rice, and driving while listening to rex orange county at hours on end.

things could be better, but it could also be worse.

6:56pm in real time

freshly showered with a starving stomach, i’m sat on the couch in the living room of saville, having just swam for an hour and am now waiting for the ginger chicken in my steamer to be cooked for dinner, as foster the people plays from my JBL go. the song is a 2014 relic, yet i feel as present as ever. and adulting lately has kinda felt like that for me – present.

i just got my own car, which means that my grab app has been left untouched for almost a whole month now. i’ve been driving to and from work and classes pretty much everyday, weekends included, for the whole month of january. i am currently halfway through the litigation module of my legal internship, which means that workload has doubled in volume, alongside the concurrent doubling of my own CLP classes. this means earlier mornings and later hours of going home; familiarising myself with the federal highway and coming home to a single lightbulb i’d left on in the kitchen.

i want to say that this foreign and isolating routine feels weird, but it would be more accurate to say that it feels like nothing. and i don’t mean it in a way to express easiness or comfort, but rather an almost mechanical and robotic sequence of waking up, getting from one place to another, going back home, and sleeping (except with the anomalous daily segment of going on ROC and discord lol). but i know that’s how adulting is. it’s only just the beginning. i haven’t even properly gotten into it yet.

and yeah, sure, i’m still lonely as all heck, but i think there’s a certain gratification to be derived from knowing that i am living this day to day life by myself rather independently, and have not gone starving or (too) dysfunctional. yet. and ironically enough, for the first time in my life, i feel like i am allowed to make as many mistakes as i can. things like getting lost in the KL highways and ending up at freaking carcosa seri negara during peak hours, attending a mock mediation session at my firm in a state of severe sleep deprivation, and spending 10 minutes trying yet failing to side park, make me both anxious and a little bit exhilarated knowing that this life in the city that i am currently leading is very much all within my grasp of control. this story belongs to me. i am writing this story by myself. it’s lonely, but it feels present.

the loneliness part – i’m still trying to navigate my way through it. but i’m living and i’m learning, and that’s all that matters.

twenty yeet-teen

this year was the one year where it felt like a combination of several years. half of it was spent in manchester and the other half in KL, and already i feel like the person that i was during these two periods was two completely different people.

i’ve already talked about manchester so much on here, but 2018 in uni, even more so than the second half of last year, was one of the best periods of my life that i’ve ever lived through. it was a year of many new friendships…and also heartbreaks, and most importantly feeling utmost satisfaction and confidence in my own skin.

and then came graduation, objectively supposed to be one of the most important milestones in my life. after which came the onerous ritual of adulthood that involved moving to a brand new city to live alone and feeling like i have to work from ground zero again.

and it was difficult, and it is still difficult, but last week, a day after the pool party, as i was in the grab on the way to KL sentral to take a train back home for the christmas break, i realised that i was heading home with a slightly heavier heart than previously. i realised that i had started to form pleasant and comfortable memories of living in KL, like eating pork noodles with new friends, getting late night soft serve with older ones, and even hanging out on discord with people i’ve never met talking about a mobile game. they weren’t much (especially if i were to compare them to uni days in manchester), but they offered solace in the fact that i was capable of creating happy memories and feeling comfortable in a place that felt hostile to me upon my initial arrival.

2018 has truly been a year of many changes, some upsetting, but most were welcomed changes. i can only wish the next year to be as great if not greater than this year, to help me grow and learn towards becoming the person that i want to be.

happy new year, folks.

1242 hours

do you ever just one-up your own sadness? think to yourself, i have never felt this sad before, and then a week later you think the same thing, and then the week after, and then after.

i was upset when i got here, so i made myself go out everyday, texted friends to hang out with almost every hour. i told myself that it’s fine now, i still have many friends here. then i felt too restless, so i took japanese classes and got a job, and i told myself it’s fine now, i will be too busy to feel sad. and then now i realise that in the midst of busyness i still feel empty. without the distractions of multiple real life responsibilities and people and games that are to be honest sustaining me when i’m home alone, i don’t know how to feel happy. i thought i was doing well but perhaps i’m not. and i feel scared. i feel desperate. i feel lonely.

i don’t like thinking there is an external solution to this that i need to find, because ultimately self-care comes from within, but i don’t know what to do to make myself feel happy anymore.

what’s so happy about a heartbreak party

lost spaces

in my pursuit of KL’s artsy fartsy art scene, i said “yes” in a heartbeat when taliza invited me to join her friends to catch lost spaces and talitha’s gigs at urbanscapes house. 

i’ve mentioned this before to multiple friends that since coming back to KL and being given a taster session on what is presumed to be KL’s creative art scene (zhongshan building, cooler lumpur, merdekarya and now urbanscapes), malaysians can be quite the artists, even in comparison to my experiences of artsy manchester (and we’re talking about manchester here, home of afflecks and oasis and the 1975, the actual hub of england’s artistic sub-culture). i love what they’ve done to the art scene here, by incorporating local elements and experiences to make it feel all the more familiar, all the more malaysian. it feels fascinating to me particularly because most of my life growing up in alor setar, i have rarely come to associate my surroundings with art. music, paintings, exhibitions etc that i learned about growing up were all sourced from the internet, and in my mind’s eyes were pretty much a foreign affair. it wasn’t until i went to sunway and met a group of creatively like-minded friends (studying a-levels, of all things), that i started to realise that there is an actually abundance of malaysian art, albeit more obscure than their western counterparts. (see “In convo w/ visual artist LITH NG on her show @ Urbanscapes 2018” written by my friend Ellen on her friend’s urbanscapes exhibition)

lost spaces is one such band that i discovered when i was looking up local artists on spotify. shun was the one who introduced them to me, the lead singer being a friend of a friend. and i was pleasantly surprised by how quickly i took a liking to their music, considering the fact that i have zero knowledge of the local music scene. they describe their music as “groovy indie pop with hints of ambient R&B” [1]. with heavy usage of dreamy synth sounds and malaysian-accented monologue inserts (as heard in instant.romance, where two boys discuss about the millennial woes of finding love), lost spaces makes music that is bound to make you dance or at the very least tap your foot along to, until you realise the inherent melancholy interlaced within the lyrics and you’re a bit confused because the song is upbeat but the words are so, so sad. (seems like we’re miles away from happy days / we seem to be stuck here looped in a fuzzy daze)

also they have really aesthetically pleasing single covers and i am weak for pastel colours of the pink to purple range.

Talitha’s gig was next and the Heartbreak Party was actually hers, in conjunction with her EP release of BOYS. her new EP is called BOYS, but the actual best track of it is called GIRLS. (if this isn’t a metaphor for real life, i don’t know what is). and it really is a heartbreak party, isn’t it? her songs sing of feelings of sadness, betrayal and disappointment in relationships that maybe hit a bit too close to home once or twice. it felt like maybe we were all supposed to cry together instead of sing along during the gig. (he doesn’t / he doesn’t want me enough to love / love me enough to try / he wouldn’t / no, no, he wouldn’t look me in the eye / even when i told him i’d try)

after the party, taliza and i headed for the balcony of the third floor of 2 Hang Kasturi for an impromptu shoot, something that i hadn’t done in nearly four years. and it felt really nice. there were other people around too, so there was no helping the initial awkwardness of people staring and a four-year hiatus (and an oily complexion after having just emerged from a crowded room), but it felt familiar, and it was taliza, and it was one of the few moments so far during which i felt the complete compatibility of my surroundings, and being in the city of KL. 

check out taliza’s instagram for the shoot:



[1] "Lost Spaces: An Indie-Pop Band Which Will Fill Up the Twilight On Your Daily Commute", Friends of Sevenpie, December 4, 2017 

lonely in KL: contrast


i’m in KL! have been for a month. after being relatively stagnant at home and anticipating my next phase of life, i am finally here. unlike manchester, i wanted a better beginning, which meant that i only allowed myself optimism paired with concurrent mediocre expectations so that i wouldn’t be pre-emptively closing myself off from all opportunities, but also i would come prepared with an airbag to cushion any fall in expectations, a mechanism developed over the years in the wake of crushing regrets and disappointments.

i don’t really know what i expected upon coming here, though. unlike university, living alone in KL (despite studying in the meantime) isn’t exactly an experience that comes with a predictable blueprint. even today, almost a month into my stay here, i have yet to find a steady footing on my routine here, which is at best, a little exhilarating, and at worst, incredibly terrifying.

i have always loved big cities. i have always romanticised big cities. to me, there’s always an inherent thrill of being thrown into the deep unknown that is so rich with a certain fixed culture interlaced with elements of unpredictability and surprise. like london. rome. paris. tokyo. bangkok. all very messy, but also exciting. it was precisely the inevitability of chaos and disorder ever-prevalent in a city that fascinated me; me, a creature of habit, a hermit confined within her comfort zone for almost as long as she had lived. studying abroad had instilled an addiction to adrenaline within myself that came with combating the norm of what i have known all my life, and taking on challenges that i would have absolutely recoiled from a mere three years ago. i wanted to be the exact opposite of myself, which is why i never hesitated at all to choose KL as my next destination within malaysia.

and KL never disappointed. ever so chaotic and tireless, it made london appear like a sleepy town. there was never a lack of anything to complain about once i leave the house. i don’t have a car, so getting anywhere by grab is blood-sucking. toss in some rain and rush hours and you get the quintessential KL experience of feeling helpless either squished among a sea of bodies that completely eradicates any concept of personal space, or stranded in a mall that has yet to even open its shutters just so you can wait for the grab surge to go down. chaotic, so chaotic. do i love it? sometimes. sometimes i still stare in amazement at the bright skyscraper lights of menara suezcap and TM tower from the smudged window of a grab on the way home approaching bangsar south, and sometimes i also still feel some inane sense of fondness at the sight of the endless red rear lights of a traffic jam at 6pm from the elevated view of LRT windows. there’s just so much going on here. so much potential. so many opportunities. it all feels so breathless and minute.

but sometimes, especially when it’s at night, it’s not so easy to focus on the romanticisation in the face of inherent loneliness. because i am alone, here. and suddenly, so many responsibilities surface when you are living alone. but right at the next immediate second, there comes the contrast of having absolutely nothing to fill your time with, no one to talk to. it’s so strange to me, even until today, because i’ve never been in this exact situation before. i’ve always had the privilege and comfort of familiar company in the form of family and friends at the start of my new phases of life, and i know i’m already 23 (god forbid i ever forget that when the whole universe seems to consistently be reminding me of it) but it’s always going to be an awkward arrangement for me to be completely by myself. it’s not even really a matter of self-sufficiency or lack of human contact, but rather the absence of reassurance in the form of The Idea That Someone Is Always There. it’s weird. there’s the freedom that i’ve salivated over for so long right in front of me, and yet i can only feel nothing but weird.

and nothing stands out more during this period of assimilation into KL city than the concept of contrast, the most obvious being the contrast between my life here and the life i had in manchester. it’s always a subconscious comparison that starts budding within my mind when i’m not paying attention, and especially during that brief moment before i fall asleep. everyone and everything felt so nearby and within reach in manchester, but KL just feels like a huge expanse of barrenness in which everyone is constantly busy and occupied, and everything is so distant and unreachable. a contrast akin to the bizarre and acute contrast between capitalism’s glaring divide of income groups reflected in a mere two-way road separating kampung houses with atap roofs and the integrated corporate hub of bangsar south filled with skyscrapers with glass windows and a mini-waterfall, a view that still strikes fascination within me whenever i pass by it everyday to go home.

does this contrast fill me with regret? it does, it still does. it fills me with so much regret that i didn’t fight hard enough to stay in manchester for another year, especially with the knowledge that had i chosen to remain in manchester, my current situation would be so much better off than where i am now. but at the same time, there is only so much blame that i can put on myself. and i realise that somewhere within me, there’s still a part of me that hasn’t totally given up on KL yet. sure, a lot of things suck. sure, i miss my friends so much when i’m home alone for the third day in a row, writhing in pain from gastritis without any luxury of human interaction. sure, i wish i could just reach where i want to go by foot when i’m stuck in a crowded LRT for 30 minutes, knowing that it’s the only possible route to get to class. but sometimes, rather than regret and all the what-ifs, i just think, “that’s how things be”. because really, i would rather blame my circumstances than my own actions anymore. it’s perhaps even more helpless to feel like there’s no way to fight against unfortunate circumstances, but accepting the fact that adult life is just generally tough for everyone and that the bliss of university life cannot stretch on forever, is easier in the long run. it’s just really…how it be.

which honestly, is also the same answer for me regarding my relationship with KL; do i hate KL? do i love KL? i’m still not done romanticising this metropolitan hell yet, but obviously it’s also not where i would want to be as of this moment. which is why, eh, KL is just KL. that’s how she be.