When I was younger, Eldest Sis used to tell me to first establish the person I want to be before I engage myself in a relationship with another person – “Always be sure of who you are, then you can go ahead and seek another. I’d say don’t get involved in any relationships until you’re in your early twenties as opposed to late teens, because those years are the years when you’re really budding.”
At that time when she said it to me, I was young and full of teenage angst; I wanted to retort back so bad, “Well easy for you to say. You have someone, always do.” Back then she had her steady, longtime boyfriend of 8 years or so that I thought her words did not – could not – validate. I never said these thoughts out loud but I rebelled inside, hence not forgetting this moment. I grew up until present day being largely unfazed and not worried about not (yet) having a partner, liking my current independence and valuing my singledom so very much honestly. I will admit that sometimes the thought does ring in my mind, but in general I don’t sweat about it because quite frankly until now I never really bothered.
Cue a few years later and 10 weeks spent in a small-town where endless revelations, new experiences and firsts occur on a daily basis. Cue riding in cars with boys and just about anything else. Cue realizing that despite the vast differences of opinions and the like, I did not once feel insecure or pressured to mold myself into the fold, to change and present myself a certain way to be accepted and viewed upon as “better”, however subjective that very adjective may be. Where a few years ago I will do exactly so, I think, this time around surprising but gladly, I did not once waver in my self-identity and worth; I have a sometimes awkward sense of humor, I’m aware, plus I’m also extremely talkative and not at all, or hardly, ever shy and docile. I’m nothing like anyone’s perempuan Melayu terakhir and frankly I don’t care; it’s refreshing.
After weeks and weeks of friendship summer flings, it finally hit me – this is it. Exactly what she meant back then, now so crystal clear.
I admit that I took a slight fancy in one of the many boys while remaining overtly aware that the friendships, what more the crushes if any, will not go anywhere beyond this space and time. Furthermore, in his case, he’s already spoken for and there are simply irreconcilable differences and logic checks. I remain slightly doe-eyed at times because we get along so well, our interests overlapping one after another that conversations with him, as opposed to ones that took place with his buddy, went by good-naturally and were stimulating. Some nights I’d be a bit hung up, I admit, despite remaining incredibly aware of the temporariness of the entire situation, what more the relationship.
On the last night we met, I treated the boys to dinner. There were the four of them boys and then myself. Dinner as usual, proceeded as it would: food, followed by conversations which moved from topic to topic, but mostly this time around remained relevant to Malaysia and the issues she face today. After a good hour or two spent talking – mostly by his buddy sitting next to me and my good friend across from me – I noticed that someone in particular kept looking my way, despite the fact that I didn’t speak as much as I typically do. I didn’t want to get too full or even ahead of myself, thinking there’s something there when there isn’t, so I pretended to not notice. I would however, nonchalantly turn my head left time and again to prove my suspicion – and almost all the time, his gaze never left me. Strange.
Just a little under 10PM, we finally called it a night and left. I hugged him somewhat awkwardly – conservative Asian guys are so skittish sometimes, I swear – and shook his hands, despite not initiating the latter and personally finding that act on a personal basis to be too formal. That was the last physical contact and the last in-person communication.
On the drive back to my rented room, my phone buzzed; a text message. He apologized for forgetting to say thank you but more than that reminded me once again to stay in touch and “I’m gonna miss you.” I suppressed a grin.
During dinner a week ago, I’d asked him to categorize me into a social type but he almost immediately shook his head, smiling. “I can’t categorize you, you’re just… you.” I laughed and replied, “I like that. I’ll take that!” During the drive back, as we laughed about this being a friendship summer fling I said I was sincerely glad to meet people with whom I could be exactly myself – not more, not less; what you see, hear and feel are wholly me. In between the laughter he said, “No, don’t be anyone else. It’s not necessary. Just you.” Once more, I found myself suppressing a grin.
I don’t find myself as fascinating as I think he finds me frankly. Girls like myself, contrary to what him or even myself may think, are really not all that uncommon. This urban, modern Muslim Malay hybrid. My openness and my opinions are my own, but my swag? I see that in lots of my other girlfriends too; I just so happen to perhaps be the first one he encounters. Case in point: he may be a little transfixed, but his buddy’s completely not surprised or taken by me because he’s clearly met, spoken and even befriended girls like me.
However, I will say that it is nice, extremely nice of him I personally think, to like me as I am. To like me exactly for who I am – what little he saw and knew of me at that. In the past I may have felt proud and like the silly naive girl I was, I’d beam like someone just confessed out loud to me. Older and a little more wiser now, I’m just happy at the revelation and happier at what this means. Hope, that’s what.
Where I am cynical and skeptical of the One True Love concept, where I am still largely unimpressed by the opposite gender most especially those around my age, here’s someone who represented exactly what I wanted to be proven wrong all this while.
So they exist, I thought to myself two nights later. Persons who like you exactly because you are who you are, imperfections and all.
I will not attest to knowing what love is – I don’t – but I’ll now admit to being a little less cynical. Maybe… Someday… The One True Love will indeed appear after all, insyaAllah.
In the meantime, I will remain secure, ambitious and unperturbed by the different colorful personalities I have the opportunity to encounter. I will remain motivated, driven and realistic as I pave and secure my own future and carve my name in history, however small, as a Somebody.
The only difference? Where I was not, I’ll now do so with my heart and mind open to… a certain possibility.