The truth is, the thought of the future scares me.

“I don’t know what to do with my life,” I’d claim. That’s only half the truth. When I think of Housemate #2, I find it odd. We are from the same country, went to the same undergrad, majored in engineering and soon, I am fairly certain I will also step into the oil & gas field. The difference is that she is based elsewhere – now at Perth, Australia – while I will be in a remote and inconspicuous town in East Malaysia.

The truth is, when I think of the future, I am scared. It’s not the unknown that scares me – it’s the insignificance.

The reality is that none of this will matter: not the Stanford degree, not the years spent abroad and halfway across the globe, not the places I’ve visited and the different cultures and people I’ve been exposed to – none of these will matter. None of these will matter.


Because in a small town like that, the idea of America is what you see on television. How could they possibly know of Stanford, if the thought of getting into local universities already feels like a pipe dream? What does Stanford matter, how could they possibly entertain the notion of an educational setting and rankings when day in and out, putting food on the table is a daily worry? What is the use of getting to know the cities across the US, the UK, across Europe and more, when it is hard enough to make it across the South China Sea to visit neighboring countries?

The truth is, I am scared of the reality that it actually matters very little, so very little, these things that I hold close to my heart, thinking and believing that they define my life thus far. What will I be, just who am I, if I am no longer interesting because of these perks?

When I think of Housemate #2, sometimes I am filled with envy. Her life constantly glows, from her outgoing personality to the places she has lived to her upbringing, to the education she’s completed and even now, the job she has secured and the places it has led her to. We started off on the same footing, but where I will end up – Stanford does not matter. Stateside is fictional. English is secondhand.

She will continue to twinkle like the star she’s always touted to be, while I… I am the star that once was.


Over the years, I’ve advocated for Malaysians abroad to return home. I’d listen with disgust and anger at those who are happily settled here, yet continue to ridicule and comment about home as if they are still entitled to do so, when they’ve deliberately chosen to not lift a finger where she is concerned. Their words are empty, their commentaries void. I’ve written about the fervor these young Malaysian professionals have in talking about the country, but translating very little into actions. I’ve argued heatedly with some about this.

“I am not a heroine for choosing to return home,” I wrote the other day.

That is pride talking.


John Mayer croons,

This house is safe and warm, But I was made to chase the storm.

As a child and young girl, I used to believe that I am meant for something bigger – great, grandiose, momentous.

John Mayer too, gamely claims,

The life I need to lead, is somewhere out there, callin’ over those hills. 

The truth is, I am scared that by choosing to return home, I will never know what lies beyond those hills. I am scared that the only horizon I will know, the same one that will know me inside and out from childhood to death, is nowhere else but under the Malaysian sun… only the local landscape.

“I am not a heroine for choosing to return home,” I wrote the other day.

What is the price to pay for this decision, the losses I would need to bear?


Sometimes fear overtakes my conscience, and my heart contracts painfully in response.

Is it so bad, to live a life that is small?


Sometimes the truth hits me square, and reality leaves me cold.


I will not be able to bike freely, like I do here;

it is not safe.

I can’t take a stroll outside in the dead of night;

it is not safe.

I will need to be on my guard at all times;

it is not safe.

It is not recommended that I live alone because I am young, single and a woman;

it is not safe.

I will eventually need to comply and adhere to norms;

it is not safe.

I will have to say goodbye to freedom in its most cathartic form;

it is not safe.


Sometimes the thought that I will no longer be able to feel the wind blowing against my face, as the wheels of my bike turn, saddens me in a way that is difficult to explain. The realization that the dead of night can no longer hug me close, as freely as it wishes to, is a loss that is hard to shoulder.

It is not safe.


“For a long time, I felt betrayed by her. I was angry, so angry. It was she who taught me the importance of being self-sufficient and independent, of being my own person. It was she who developed my fundamental beliefs, only to abandon them. 

You gave up and gave in, I had thought, after all that we’d promised to each other?” 

When I was younger, I thought I knew love.

There was a brief period when I thought it meant happily ever after. For a moment, I thought it meant whole; a complete puzzle. During a brief respite, I thought it meant companionship, of two becoming one. There was a time when I thought that love resides in the taste of a kiss; does it taste like strawberries or peaches? Another time I thought it is hidden in the interstitial spaces of two bodies in an embrace.

I had no idea that sometimes love lies in heartbreak. I had no way of knowing that sometimes love is when you love each other, but could not be together. I could not have fathom that sometimes two bodies could be intertwined in such a way that the point where one ends is the gateway where the other begins, yet love is deliberately and pointedly absent. The first time I saw an affectionate, elderly couple, this foreign image kept me awake and in tears. Somewhere along the way, I discovered that love actually requires a maddening amount of hard work, trust, and brokenness. Sometimes her gaze penetrates deep within, down to my bones, and my insides freeze. The gaps between teetered silences, accumulated over years of breeding elephants in the room, have taught me to build walls.

I know now, what I didn’t then.


There are days, moments, an instantaneous second amid the length of infinity –

Footprints in the sand, swept away by the gust of wind.

I don’t know how to unlearn.


Maybe I would’ve turned out differently.

Maybe these words would never have existed, “For a long time, I felt betrayed.”

Unicorns would fly across the pages of my young self’s journals, while doodles of wild flowers filled the edges of yellowed pages. Rainbows would appear between the lines, and the whiff of lazy, sunny Sundays still reek with each page turned. Vivid imageries of pastel-colored skies and earthly wonders enchant. It isn’t their story that I’d write about over and over, of alternate endings and roads not taken – the way I used to.

Maybe on that fateful day when I discovered the magical world of words on paper, the first thought wouldn’t have been about salvation. Maybe that wouldn’t have been the meaning behind my name, even if it is true; as if I’m branded and defined for life, by something I never signed up for. Maybe then, it wouldn’t have been about devising ways to fix wounded souls and broken hearts. Maybe there would’ve been less sadness and anger. Maybe I wouldn’t try so desperately to protect the elephants in the room. Maybe I would quit believing that I need to be a fighter, less of a knight and more of a damsel in distress. Maybe the sight of a happy, loving, elderly couple wouldn’t feel so alien.

Maybe I would’ve turned out differently.


“Permanent awkward turtle.”

I like the company of solitude too much. Too, too much.


Six word story:

I am filled with nostalgia bullshit.


2 thoughts on “past/future.

  1. I think I’m a little scared when I think about the future.It’s so easy not to think about it and live in a moment but it’s hard at the same time.Now for me the only answer is time will tell.Time will tell where you’re going and what you will become.I learnt that life can change in an instant in a good and in a bad way.I was trying to plan many things but eventually everything wasn’t the way I expected.
    Sometimes I’m a little scared I will stuck in my town forever.I think I told you that already.But what I realized is that for most people it’s ok to live all their life in one place.It’s not necessarily a bad thing.So maybe I’m wrong after all.I think I worry too much about things I can’t change right now.
    Now I choose to enjoy present and postpone all that thinking about the future.It’s spring,it’s time to live for the fullest.)

    1. Your comment here is absolutely beautiful! Thank you, I needed this :)

      “But what I realized is that for most people it’s ok to live all their life in one place.It’s not necessarily a bad thing.So maybe I’m wrong after all.I think I worry too much about things I can’t change right now.”

      Really, really struck a chord with me (something I’m in the wrong, where my mentality and perception are concerned. Thank you again Paloma :))

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