excerpts from memoirs of my mother (…if I ever write one).

I’m having serious writer’s block and I leave to Sydney tonight for my two-week Australian vacation (which has gone rather awry in planning). Traveling solo in Sydney for 6 days and for unknown reasons, I’ve been feeling kind of nervous so I keep reminding myself I’ve done this a million times. The key points are to enjoy myself and trust my gut instincts, right? We’ll see. I will keep you guys here posted if I can. I hope the traveling will inspire lots of writing especially since Australians close shop way early and it’s winter so nights are long…

I dug up more short blurbs I wrote recently. I’m not writing anything new – I know I should really attempt, but for now, here you go: things I write when I write about my mother. Other short blurbs about her can be found in my travel notes here. There is probably going to be a part II in future; dare I admit she is my muse.

June 21, 2014

Today I asked Mum how she came about her decision with her double masters and PhD – did she know it all along, were they what she wanted? How did she choose her PhD thesis? Which one does she think is harder: trying to get the PhD after marriage or pregnancy? She didn’t even blink and simply replied, “Neither. It’s a matter of self-discipline.” She went on to recall the long sleepless nights and hardships – all with a laugh. “You should write about me someday,” she said with a chuckle. Many times I’m ashamed at the difficulties I think I went through the past year, because when I think of how she’d completed grad school while married, pregnant, raising kids, going back and forth between two continents, financial constraints and ugly politicking… I… have none of these. She asked me the other day, “Why were you so stressed there?” I tried to explain, but I sounded so silly even to my ears. Against this woman, I am no match. But today she also said a beautiful thing; profound. “Sometimes it’s okay to not having everything figured out. What happens to a person is a combination of fate and choices. Sometimes things choose you. You just have to be open to whatever opportunity is best for you at a given time.” My wise mother, I’m lucky if I could even be half the woman you are.

If I ever write a book, you will be my protagonist – this I’m sure.

 June 27, 2014

Today I sat next to Mum in a lunch meeting she chaired with her team of 6-people strong dental think tanks. They were deep in discussion about pioneering a sustainable leadership program on dental public health with funding direct from Colgate HQ in NY. “There’s no blueprint to guide us,” she started, “which is why I’ve gathered you guys here today. If this is successful it will be the model to represent Southeast Asia and potentially picked up by other countries. We’re here to fine tune the details with the liberty of setting things up without the financial worry. Isn’t this exciting?” My mind swirled to years past of sitting quietly next to her in meetings, conferences, lectures and whatever else. Back then, none of this made sense.

I recall my schooling years, adjusting schedules around her hectic one – there were lots of give and take for all of us the kids and Mum, until my last two years when it became too much for her to handle that I learned my first taste of so-called Real Life: sent home by van service. I remember the year she received her professorship – we were standing outside her office. “That,” she pointed to her name plate, “Do you know how hard I worked for it?” I smiled, though not understanding. I remember one time when all of us were huddled into the university auditorium in our best dresses and suits because it was apparently her special day, some kind of commemoration and award ceremony. She was beaming and all of us kids sat in the front row. Even then, I confess I never really understood anything. Today I sat next to her and it’s like the wheels in my mind finally clicked… I still don’t fully understand the full picture, but it is only now that I realize she wasn’t kidding whenever she spoke of the Malaysian public health landscape, sometimes quoting specific stats. “Isn’t it exciting?” She had asked her peers. Pioneer; the first in Malaysia. She used these terms so casually it’s obvious this isn’t the first time. Numerous meetings, conferences and whatnot and finally at twenty-three it clicked: this woman is on fire, all passion and trails ablazing.

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4 thoughts on “excerpts from memoirs of my mother (…if I ever write one).

  1. Your mum sounds like an awesome, strong, determined person with big thoughts and big dreams and whole bucket of fearlessness. I imagine it could possibly feel overwhelming at times wanting to measure up to her or live up to her. But I like to think that she makes an awesome role model. Plus, she sounds very understanding to boot. Great post, Jan! Loved reading it! :D

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