to new beginnings.

Truth: I’m having so much trouble with writing.

I’ve been writing for long enough now that I know it’s a normal push-and-pull phase, but isn’t it annoying when you’ve so much to say, but can’t seem to form coherent words to express all the thoughts swimming in your mind? It is frustrating, to say the least.

Still, I plan on trying, trying, and to stubbornly keep trying until this feeling goes away. Unfortunately, this also means you might end up with lots of poor, subpar write-ups about anything and nothing here. I hope that’s okay.

Truth: I decided a change of theme might do the trick.

But as usual, you know how it’s been in the past too – the true test is whether I still ‘feel‘ the theme, hours from now. Right now I really like this new one, but if the next time you pop in the site has reverted to its former theme, well. There’s that.

Truth: I dropped a class.

Because I decided I would rather have a life than a semblance of one. I was falling behind and even though I realize I need to play catch up only this week(end) i.e. the slogging is only now, Mum’s coming for a visit for ten days in mid-October. It’s only nice that I have time for her then too, you know? She’s flying in just because she wants to be with me after the stolen wallet incident. I know – I feel like a baby.

But you know what this means too – I’ll have time to write again! I didn’t drop the reading-heavy classes so there’s still plenty (too much…) of readings this quarter, but it makes a huge difference not having that extra load of problem set due weekly. Let’s hope I’ll pop by here more often again.

Truth: I’ve been thinking of that high school group of six girls.

Sometimes I think I give too much niceties to the six girls of the past. I realized that whenever I write about them, I use flowery terms and emotional languages to depict what we were, who they are, and where we all are now. I talk about forgiveness and moving forward and closed chapters and it’s not that I don’t mean them – I do – and it’s obviously the mature, so-called appropriate way to handle these things, right?

But you know, to be honest, there are still days when I feel like I want to shake them and explicitly call them out for their low treatment of me in the past. I want to express that with unflinching conviction and utter confidence. I want to rile it into them that thanks to what happened, until now I have such a hard time with trusting others and being part of large group of friends. For a split second I want to forget supposed maturity and all that jazz, throw away the flowery languages and emotional expressions I’ve used in the past. Just two beautiful words. Fuck you.

Truth: I am Trouble.

That I am. I am In A Phase. I don’t know why it took me such a long time and roundabout way to come clean – okay I know, it’s called shame and okay, I’ll admit it now. Right now I think of myself as Trouble because my friend was in fact half-right to call me out on wanting something more beyond friendships with my friends – that it could’ve been any guy friend of mine. Yes and no. It’s not just with anyone but she was right in my wanting more. The other day my good buddy dropped by Stanford for his long-awaited comeback to pick up his things here and wrap things up for good. We met on Wednesday night and it was a comfortable albeit subdued dinner; he was obviously jet lagged and exhausted and I seem to have lost a grip on my heart.

When I arrived back to my apartment at ten o’ clock, revelation hit me square in the face. I recalled a few months earlier when I was in Sydney, Australia and had shared a room with a 40-something woman for two nights in the hostel. Despite our age gap and everything else, we became fast friends and spoke candidly about each other throughout the night. She teaches Japanese at a local university in Malaysia and prior to that had studied and worked for a few years in Japan too, so you can see why we clicked. Funny, something in particular that has stayed with me was when we somehow ended up on the topic of (scandalous) affairs. I’d asked her if she knew of any in particular, especially because she had just told me colorful love and relationship stories of her expatriate and cross-cultural friends the world over. She furrowed her eyebrows for a second, her expression serious, and then said, “You know, women… for some women it’s not the physical closeness they seek or venture into – the kind that we’d automatically classify as an affair. I’ve found that women, most women, seek a kind of intimacy of the mind.” She paused, trying hard to explain it well, “There are roles that women can’t fill for each other and it’s the same sometimes, between spouses. I suppose you could call it an… emotional connection. But it’s also an intimacy of the mind, where your souls feel connected because your thoughts are valued and stimulate each other. I’ve heard too many of these kind of affairs.” 

This is where I am now, this phase I am in. Trouble that is now my middle name.

I want, crave and yearn for, exactly this intimacy. A closeness that is not merely physical, rather emotionally and mentally stimulating. It’s hard to describe and I constantly remind myself of my boundaries as a Muslim woman, but if I am being honest with myself – I want more beyond the abundance of meaningful friendships that I have. I think I am ready and I have so much to give. I value insightful conversations and kind people, and I am so blessed to have a handful in my life… yet my conversations with them, deep and honest as they always are, don’t seem to fill the hollowness.

I think I seek for love, wanting and willing it to happen to me now because at last, I think my sense of self is grounded enough that I can let another person in and love another as much as I do myself. Yet I … have no idea where or how to attain this.

Truth: I am returning home for good.

I’ve made up my mind, once and for all, that I am returning home for good once I have completed my masters here. I have struggled with this decision for years and this summer the tension and anxiety really escalated because this time around it’s for real – it’s finally happening, where do I want to be once I graduate? I can’t keep hiding behind the mask of tertiary education. I think what scared me the most in deciding to go home is the fact that I’ll waste all the potential and opportunities I have right within my palms.

I’d shared this with a close friend early last week, “Sometimes I imagine myself in a circle. I am sitting in the center of that circle and within that circle, I am surrounded by all these opportunities. Opportunities that have come my way and those I’ve used, but there are more that I haven’t. I’m surrounded by opportunities which are for my taking – there are no boundaries or restrictions to them, you know? It’s amazing! And yet there I am, right at the center, just sitting there. When I think of my peers and other Malaysian dreamers, I am fully aware that too many of them can only imagine and wish for what I have experienced… and what that therefore means, being the one at the receiving end. My greatest fear in choosing home is that I’ll have effectively wasted away the potential of those unused opportunities… and that one day in the not-so-distant-future, I’ll regret it. I’m so afraid that by deliberately choosing home, I will have effectively and singlehandedly shrunk that circle into a minuscule. If I regret this decision, it’ll be so hard to bear. I wasted everything away.” 

Then I lost my wallet with lots of important details that could jeopardize my financial means and identity. When I was sorting out all the to-dos including having to file for fraud protection, identity theft and other things like a police report in a foreign land when I’ve never even stepped into what more file one in my home country, that was the first time I felt so alone and foreign, literally alien and vulnerable and understood that this… isn’t my place. This is a borrowed place that has done me a lot of good and vice versa but I, try as I might, don’t belong here. I’d also reached out for help to supposedly closest friends here and learned the hard way yet again, that there are friends and then there are… friends who’ll actually be there for you when you’re in deep shit. There’s unfortunately a clear distinction between the two.

And you know, if nothing else and above all else, I owe it to my mother to be there for her i.e. to do what I know she wants me to do. It doesn’t have to be forever – I could and will honestly likely venture out in a few years’ time again – but in the present where my parents’ age really concerns me and every moment with them keep feeling like a string of lasts, I think the least I could do is to do right by them, by her. If my mother could, without hesitation and qualms, free her schedule and purchase a ticket at her earliest convenience just to be with me because of what happened – arguably small in the scheme of things – the least I could do is to come back for her, you know?

So I didn’t attend the career fair that was held last Tuesday. Ping. I’m coming home to Malaysia in mid-June – this is officially my last year in the US.

I wrote all of the above to Eldest Sis and had anticipated her usual response (silence) but she surprised me with… thank you. Thank you. 

“I really appreciate this from you,” she wrote, “because being an adult is exactly this sometimes: we decide by thinking of others.” 

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4 thoughts on “to new beginnings.

  1. I like how that woman described it: an “intimacy of mind”. I recognize that. I have it with my husband, and I also have it in a small way with certain people who are closest to me, and not all of them are best friends or even family. It’s a hard thing to find though, and I think impossible to manufacture artificially. There are some people I would say I am very close to, or best friends, and yet we don’t share that and sometimes I wonder, ‘Why aren’t we closer? We do so many things together and talk about so many things” but no matter what and no matter how long we know each other, there is this mental block. It bothers me sometimes, because in my mind I yearn for more people to understand me. And yet, intimacy isn’t something to just give away. It isn’t something you can just take… It is either there or it isn’t. I think a part of my growing up has been to realize that I don’t have to seek or acquire that in every person I know.

    As for your decision to go home, I think it’s brave of you to say this, admit this, to yourself. Or even to make a decision and not just let life push you wherever you end up. We never know what things we might regret in the future, so it’s not something we can really fret about now. It’s a weird middle ground though isn’t it? “Should I do something I may regret and hope that by the time I get there even if I do regret it, I can just take it in stride?” Part active decision making, part passive letting be. What’s the right answer, no one knows. Proud of you though. :)

    1. Aw thank you :) I love everything you said in response to the woman’s words- I’ve nothing to add, just more to ponder upon about that. As for that sticky decision with home, thank you again :) It is a weird middle ground and ultimately I think I just have to make a decision, stick to it and make it work – the 3-step rule that I’ve pretty much live and die by. Another round of it shouldn’t kill me and the key is to realize it doesn’t mean forever – if it ends up terrible, I’ll swim my way up to the shore and venture out again (I’m hoping to get an M.Ph degree in a few years time anyway!) ;)

  2. I was so surprised by the theme change!

    I think the fact that you continue to revisit your old friendship shows that perhaps you’re not totally over it.

    1. Leave it to you to bring up the bits that others wouldn’t… haha anyways honestly you’re right. Partly it is because we are technically still friends and mostly it is because they still pop up on my Facebook and pretty much all other social media spaces too. Sometimes together, sometimes individually and other times with our other girlfriends- but always within sight and reach. I’m not being very sincere I know and that’s so terrible of me… truthfully there are days I wish I could just erase and delete them on my social media and therefore life but playing the mature card also means realizing that forgiveness (repeated forgiveness if needed like in my case) and the need to keep moving forward are the right and adult thing to do. Never burn your bridges because when you hurt a person, most times the damage is permanent and stretches for years to seemingly no end. I’m probably talking in circles haha so I’m gonna stop now but in short there are good and bad days and I admit on bad days it is doubly frustrating that I literally can’t quit the friendship because us high school girlfriends are collectively this super big group of friends… we are all close like that, literally, and that is both a curse and a blessing.

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