change, part ii

i had a sort-of midlife crisis circa march/april last year that i never really told anyone about. made a longass video about it but never got around to editing and/or uploading it because a) it was really longass and b) like i said i was busy having a sort-of midlife crisis. but basically in a nutshell that month-long period saw me constantly carrying around a ten-tonne weight in my stomach, looking around at the successes and achievements by friends and family and feeling like every minute i spent not volunteering for a samaritan cause or meeting new people at a social event or i don’t know, rescuing a baby from a burning building was time wasted. this also didn’t go well with my ingrained doctrine of experiencing university years as the Best Years of My Life, because i wasn’t even doing anything in the first place to make that a possibility.

many of the people i’ve met here in manchester told me over the course of the past few months that i’ve changed, and i agree. i’ve changed considerably from the person i was in my first academic year, precisely because i was so incredibly unhappy with my first year life that it absolutely frightens me to think about the mere prospect of returning to that life again, a life of idleness and passiveness that made me feel even more minute and impactless than i already felt. i couldn’t stand another year of that. so much that you could even say i was desperate for action, for stimuli, for every damn thing you can throw my way and by god, i will take it. so many things still make me scared and anxious, but after having lived a year of tiptoeing around the edges because of this precise fear and anxiety and emerging from that routine of extreme safety and comfort a dissatisfied and unhappy person, i realised sometimes fear can be a small price to pay in return for the wide array of brand new things the world has to offer. i only have less than two years left (tentatively) in the UK, if i just let all this time pass by me without doing anything substantial, i know, without a single doubt, that i’ll be writhing in agonised regret less than two years from now for not seizing every opportunity i could get while they were still within reach.

from september 2016 up till now, i’ve been consistently climbing a mountain without looking down (because if i did so i’d probably stop and give up from the height). and now, standing where i am, it’s a bit difficult to see clearly my point of origin. it’s been such a rapid climb too, that i hardly get the chance to pause and take a respite, to look back and reflect on all the progress i’d made and take notes on it. so currently what i possess is this huge gap between who i was and who i am now, and frankly it’s a bit disorientating. my mind blanks out every so often; it’s a bit difficult to introspect when you’ve gone so long without it, but it doesn’t feel at all right if you don’t do it, like you’re not actually gaining anything from it. the accumulation of “i’ll jot this down and think about it later” has somehow just spilled over overwhelmingly in the process that even recalling past experiences takes immense brainpower, even more so when your mental elasticity has hardened and slowed everything down. this is not a problem, really. in fact, not thinking so much was an aspiration of mine for years. but it all just feels very weird when i no longer have the time to sit down and write for myself, to examine and inspect every single detail of my life occurrences obsessively. i used to be so in touch with my emotions and thoughts that piecing them together was second nature to me. in contrast, doing the same thing now requires an active effort. it makes me think. if i’ve lost that ability, what else do i have left within me?

in the end, fear still underlies all this. why else would i start getting so jittery when i look back at old blogposts and find that i am unable to stir the same emotions within myself as when i wrote them? straying away from something you’ve always found to be familiar can be world-shatteringly scary i suppose, but this is no less than what i’d been trying to accomplish since i came back to manchester, just that in the process of Not Being First Year Michelle Again i’d also consciously and subconsciously picked up several other things too. this is all too abstract for me to lay out in a non-nonsensical way but i’m convincing myself that it’s better than nothing. i want to write more. i need to write purely and solely for myself again, because it’s been too long since i’ve done that.

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melan·cholia

it’s 1:11am and let me tell you, it’s so easy to be sad. it’s so easy to slip into the comfortable inverted ‘T’-shape vacancy where you curl up to cry and weep and mope to your heart’s desire and then you don’t want to get out anymore. it’s cramped, and frankly, you smell a bit from not showering for 5 hours but it’s too comfortable. it’s not enjoyable but it requires less effort to stand up and crawl out of the handmade weirdly-shaped shed you’d made for yourself to lick your own wounds several months ago. it’s easier than walking all the way to the showers, stripping off all your clothes and standing under the goddamn shower head that only sprinkles cold water. it is infinitely more convenient than drying yourself off and then slipping into a new pair of clothing. so much effort. plus, there is no guarantee you won’t clamber back in after cleaning up. might as well stay put.

it’s so easy to focus your entire energy into mass manufacturing negative thoughts – and not even a variety of negative thoughts, no, not creative enough for that. the mother cell of a (-) thought undergoes binary fission to produce two identical (-) thought daughter cells. just plain mitosis. it multiplies ever so exponentially like cancerous cells. so much energy, so that there is little mitochondrial generated ATP left for the production of (+) thoughts. your mitochondria powerhouse is exhausted. at the end of the day, you are still stuck in your inverted ‘T’-shape crater with a bunch of dancing (-) thought cells in your head. very easy. very deadly.

it’s especially so easy when you’ve maintained it as a routine. it’s not something anyone does deliberately. it happens. and then it stays. and it becomes a bland regimen. at least, you trick yourself into thinking it’s a regimen. it’s not. you are getting comfortable with sadness. no. get out. get your ass out of that wretched tetris block hole. get in that shower cubicle and scrape all that mud off your kneecaps. jostle forward even when all your cells (especially if they are (-) thought cells) protest against it. do do do. don’t think. just do.

break out of the routine. it’s not impossible. a wise friend once said, “it’s okay to hurt as long as you know how to pick yourself up after that”. it’s ok. it’s ok to be sad. it’s ok to order pizza and stay put. feel it in its entirety. and then you force yourself up. stay, but don’t stay stagnant. it’s the least you can do for yourself. remember, this is always about yourself. you command how you feel, and your actions and thoughts only complement it. franz ferdinand (british rock band, not to be confused with deceased archduke) sang about a verse, “right thoughts, right words, right actions”. you choose where to go, or not to go at all. you choose between the selection choices of (-) or (+) thoughts. you choose what kind of new clothes to wear. it is so hard to believe, trust me, but it is true. because no one knows what you need and want more than you do.

Her White Blank Page

You did not think when you sent me to the brink, to the brink

Human emotions, such fickle objects to exist in a universe as vast and complicated as this; yet it’s the one true thing that drives us through life, helping us make decisions, create portrayals of people from our surroundings in our minds. So fickle, they leap to and fro as they like, and when you try to stop these changes from happening, you stop for a moment, and you realise you can’t because you yourself have already changed and once you change, you can’t change back.

They say you can’t change other people; you can only change how you feel towards other people. And maybe it’s true, maybe you’re not the one who has changed, maybe I’m the one who changed, and thus that would change how I feel towards you. And maybe it’s your fault, and maybe it’s mine. Do we really have any say in this? Is there a right and wrong in this? Are human emotions presentable in black and white after all?

So maybe I’m making a decision, a decision driven by my emotions, no less. It may be a decision I come to regret or appreciate in the future, but unlike the sea, this place is not a good place to think about the future. So I shall let you go, and you will be gone from my life, taking a segment of my heart I have reserved for everyone in my life together with your departing shadow.

Thanks for the memories, they were good while they lasted.

The City Spins

It’s great how so many people I know actually have something relatively solid that they like and pursue, and I don’t even mean a certain course or field that they take up in colleges and universities. I mean typical hobbies that one spends his or her time doing. Baking, gaming, cycling, making sculptures, folding origami et cetera. It’s nice, because there’s a uniformity to it that gives a sense of security, even to people like me who are just looking from the sidelines. It’s like, you can just automatically relate someone to his or her interest, like, that’s Jane Doe, and she likes to rear deer, so everytime I meet her, I can expect to hold a conversation concerning deer and if I go on her blog it’ll be about deer and if I have any deer issues I can automatically go to her.

I guess ultimately, what I’m saying is that I’m not like the sort of people I just described. I don’t know what I like. I mean, most people would relate reading and writing to me, but the truth is, sometimes I’m so unconfident about my own writings to the point that I hate every single word I churn out from my brain juices; and sometimes, when I lose myself in the fantastic world of fiction that I grew to love so much, reality kicks in horridly to question me, why the hell aren’t you actually doing something about your non-fictional and very real life?

I don’t know, I’m just, afraid? I used to be comfortable being that quiet kid who preferred to read and write all alone but now…it’s changed. And the one thing I’m mostly pressured to be is sociable and outgoing and all those teenage normalcy that I don’t have. I don’t think people understand. I can do a lot of things, like wrap books perfectly, discern a physics law from a certain phenomenon around me but when it comes to the absolute big thing like talking to people, that’s where I find trouble. I don’t understand people who can walk into a room full of strangers and start talking to them or people who can walk into a party and start dancing and singing and when people comment that I’m “too quiet”, “not receptive”, “not enjoying myself”, believe me, most of the time, that’s not the case. Most of the time, the case is I don’t know what to do. Start walking up to a stranger and introduce myself? Start dancing like everyone else? But I can’t do that, because the whole time I will be worrying about how I look and how will people think of me and is my belly showing and is my hair alright and do I smell and do I look fat to these people and should I have worn my glasses out instead and more importantly, how do I present myself? Because that’s the main question. How do I present myself to these strangers or people I haven’t seen for ages? Am I a book nerd? An overachiever? A chatterbox? A laid-back, relaxed, don’t give a hoot kind of person? Serious and brooding? Full of indie cred or leak my guilty pleasure for certain pop music? Life of the party or a shadow in the corner? That’s why different people have different perceptions of me. And it’s frustrating, sometimes, when a certain image I’ve planned for myself doesn’t work out the way I want it to. Initially when I went for the internship in KL, I firmly told myself that I’d be extroverted and talkative and just out there and it worked for the first few minutes until the “do I look okay what do these people think of me” cycle returned and ruined the entire thing for me.

Yeah, okay, I am babbling. I certainly have a lot to complain about my life, don’t I? I sound so ungrateful of my blessings, don’t I? I’m sorry I’m in that kind of mood; it’s a mood that visits frequently nowadays.

I Can’t Ignore This War

At the end of it all,
Who am I living for?

(Translation: I am born → Kindergarten years → Primary school years → Obtain 7As in UPSR → Get into Cluster School SMKSA → Study hard and obtain 8As in PMR → Study harder and obtain 14A1 in SPM → Further studies in Melbourne or London → Take up English Literature course → Publish my first book → Start a book series (think the Harry Potter franchise) → Win a “Bestsellers Award” (unfortunately for 14-year-old me, it doesn’t exist) → Find someone to settle down with → Give birth to kids who in turn give birth to more grandkids → Live happily ever after.)

I was randomly going through old school stuff when I stumbled upon my Sivik workbook in Form 2 in which I found this flowchart of my planned future written by a 14-year-old self three years ago. Besides the incredulity and hilarity, I also felt kind of sad. Number one: because I realised the high hopes we had when we were young are just that, hopes. To think that I once wanted to take up 14 subjects and get all straight A pluses! Of course, I’m not saying that I don’t want that now, but I still think getting more As doesn’t make you cleverer than everyone else. Contrary to what was pointed out during an SPM seminar I attended in school last Saturday, I still think a student who gets 13As isn’t stupider than a student who gets 14As, and vice versa. It’s sad how everyone judges everyone by the number of As one gets. If anything, the additional subjects you take up might not even be related to your future career so really, what is the point?

Being 14 years old must really be a bliss. No real worrying about the future yet; actually thinking that I am able to pursue language as a major course; no one to stop me from dreaming big, and when I say big, I really mean big.

Number two: the future I had planned for my life sounded dead. Acing all the exams, taking up my favourite courses, winning all the awards, start a great family and live happily ever after.

It’s always up, up, up, win, win, win.

Your whole life is only about achievements and nothing else. Dead achievements.

And to be honest, that’s how my real life is turning into now. I’m turning into a robot programmed to take this exam, take that exam, and get As or distinctions in all of them. There’s nothing else that matters more than doing good in these things because that’s only the right thing to do.

How I wish I’d inserted “start a pet shelter” or “travel around Europe with my parents” somewhere in that flowchart. That would’ve been nicer. Made it sound like I wasn’t defining my life through my exam results and topnotch career.

I can already see it you know, being that “topnotch” doctor or whatnot, living in a huge mansion, coming home from work everyday to a husband who works just as hard as I do, and also all the medals and trophies that declare my greatness.

I don’t want that life.

I’m being shameless when I say I’m most parents’ and teachers’ favourite because I do well in exams. I get top in class almost every year since I started school. It’s not an easy feat but I did it.

But do I take pride in it? It’s often a “no” for an answer.

When you start going up, there is no going down, because once you drop even a teeny bit, no one forgives you. And as you continue with the effort, you realise that you’re not doing all these for yourself, you’re doing these for others. You’re not living your life to please yourself, you’re living your life to please others. There is no point in anything else anymore because that’s what everyone expects of you. People look up to you and admire you — and they want you to stay there. There is no breathing space, no stop-and-rest station along the way. You want to be a writer? Hah, no way! Take up science and be a doctor instead!

Who doesn’t want to constantly get good grades? Who doesn’t want to get a good job and live a good life? It’s all very fine and dandy that one wants it –I want it, but I want it for myself. I can’t live a future that is constantly controlled by people other than myself. I can’t have people telling me I should be so-and-so when I grow up and making decisions for everything in my life. I am aware that I make wrong choices, but I’m seventeen, I’m old enough to make the most basic of decisions. And even if I do make the wrong decisions, that’s what falling and picking yourself up is all about, right?

Not doing good in school is a pain; doing really good in school is also a pain and they will always be pains when other people interfere. All I wish is for people to stop being too judgmental and controlling.

This was supposed to be an introspective post but now it’s turned into a ranting one. I apologise.

Never Conquered, Rarely Came

“Why isn’t this a post about your internship?” Come back tomorrow (or the day after tomorrow) to find out the answer.

After working at newsdesk for almost two weeks now, I have learned to get straight to the point at the very beginning of an article (or in this case, blogpost) so let me get straight to the point:

I miss home.

I miss Mum and Dad, my friends, my dogs, my books, my room and just everything about my pre-internship life. Oftentimes, especially at night, I am overwhelmed by sudden waves of homesickness when thoughts of home -which I try very hard to suppress each and every day- resurface in my mind, having succeeded in breaking through the weak foundations of my mind, attacking me at my most vulnerable. I suppress them because whenever they appear, I lose the ability to do anything except moan and mope over situations which I am not in, people who I cannot meet or talk to, things I cannot do or have. That is very weak of me, I know, since it’s only been, what? Less than two weeks since I came here? And it’s not even as if I’m staying alone or hating my job or being away for a long period of time. No, I stay with two relatives of mine (and I have two more relatives who come over to visit every weekend; it’s like a mini family reunion every Saturday and Sunday over here), I love my awesome job and I’m only here for a month. But these thoughts are weak when faced with bouts of hopelessness as I wander around the house alone with nothing to do and no one to talk to. Things just aren’t the same here compared to home. Things are much…lonelier and quieter, and while this might seem a-okay for the first few days, it gets tiresome and even revolting by the first week. Normally, when I feel sad at home, I have many things or people or pets to fall back on: I have my parents, my dogs, my shelves of books, my movies, my bed (not that I don’t have a bed here but it just isn’t the same okay) and just the mere thought of being at home to comfort myself when things get out of hand. Here, I only have the Internet and occasionally books but in the end it just boils down to one thing: it just isn’t the same.

That is the most pathetic excuse I’ve ever heard but I’m not as strong and independent as I want to be. Yes, I know nothing in the world is ever the same as home, and life is never fair, and we all have to adapt to changes when we grow up and step into the huge, daunting, adult world but I’m…unprepared. I always use the reason “I have a year to go, let me prepare myself for Life with the capital L during that one year” but I know it’s not really true. I’ll never be prepared, just like how most parents are also never prepared to let their kids go. But I’m trying, you know. I’m trying really, really hard. Trying never hurts, does it?

I miss Alor Setar and everyone in Alor Setar. Don’t do awesome things before I come back. Wait for me.