“What were you like at 15?”

Because today is long, and hard, and I stumbled over myself as many times as I fumbled over the words that poured out from my mouth, unstructured and meek, even to my ears. I have been told I am my worst enemy; today I set myself on fire.

For the past year-and-a-half, my sister has been using Instagram as her main social media platform. I came across this particular one from a few months ago. I’d read it once, twice, and decided to save it because it made me cry and left my soul wounded for a few days. The reason? I just could not remember the last time someone, anyone but especially myself, looked (up) at me the way those girls must have done with her.

How come she gets to be the sister who wears her strength as an armor, while I end up being the one with nothing but my foolish, patched heart for the world to rip apart?

That year I felt like a lost kitten again so I packed my bags over the weekend and flew to Kuching to clear my head. I met these 4 girls a decade younger, so carefree and vibrant and free, who made me feel like the adult I wasn’t feeling at all up until that day. I spoke to a hell lot of strangers within that 3 days which I remembered nothing – but I remember clearly talking to these girls about ambition. All mixed ethnicities (which put my mere Malay-Chinese bloodline to shame), 13 to 15, and generally in awe of my aloneness. I remember the half-Bidayuh asking me, “What were you like at 15?” — and because we were on a really slow boat on a really pungent and polluted river, I told them a little story about the little girl I used to be. When I was done, one of the girls said to me she wished she’d grow up to be like me, because she wanted, above all, to be meaningful and inspiring, and then I told her what I forgot to tell myself up until that evening, and when I was done, we exchanged numbers and I packed my bags for the next flight home suddenly hopeful again.

“Just keep the faith, never settle
and never lose sight of yourself.”

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