Yesterday I survived 10 hours in school despite what felt like 39-40ºC body temperature – maybe it wasn’t that bad but it sure felt that bad – and something like 50% brain power, and over and over in my mind, I told myself I should’ve just tried harder to be a writer, a social scientist or whatever else but this engineering shiznit. Something that at least, I feel like I can do. My classes are a mess – I’m a mess – and my indecisiveness – or is it paralyzing fear of incompetency? – adds to the unease brewing inside. In other words, Stanford is kicking my ass again, but what else is new? This place insists on springing up all my carefully hidden demons and last threads of self-confidence. Or maybe it’s just me, always me. But again, what else is new?
Yesterday morning I came across an image of school kids in Kelantan, one of the northern states of Malaysia, braving the flood to go to school – an unprecedented, record-breaking worse in our history – and that photo struck a hard blow to my insides. Gutted. I’m reminded, as if I’d ever let myself forget, that someone paid good money for me to be here. More than that, it is what this experience means: what others would give up, for the opportunities I have experienced. Yet when evening rolled around and I’d asked myself what I’ve got to show for my two years here, I… still come up empty. What others achieve in one, I still stumble in two.
Yesterday, one of my classmates asked how I’d gotten my scholarship. I responded that I was a great student in high school …but I don’t know what happened along the way. True and false. I believe I earned the scholarship yes, through years of hard work during my schooling days. Still, I don’t know how to retrieve my fearlessness, the same one that lets its presence felt through my written words. What have I got to show for my two years here? What have I got to showcase, like a medallion of honor, for my two years here? To prove that it’s all worth it, that their investment’s not down to naught and that I’m honoring the dreams of thousands of young Malaysian dreamers? My palms quiver, sweaty – empty. Shame, like fear, is paralyzing.
Three summers ago, Eldest Sis was frank when she said, “My principle with you guys is that I’ll save your asses and look out for you up until you’re twenty-four. Then you’re on your own, because I trust that by then, you’re adult enough to make decisions of your own, have and hold on to opinions of your own and likewise, own up to your mistakes and shortcomings on your own.”
To a degree, she’s right. Now that I’m almost twenty-four, I understand certain life facets I didn’t fully grasp in my teens and early twenties. Just like how I’d nursed myself back to health – my struggles are my own. Some grieving you do in private.
I have this strange feeling that I’m not myself anymore. It’s hard to put into words, but I guess it’s like I was fast asleep, and someone came, disassembled me, and hurriedly put me back together again. That sort of feeling.
― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart