calm waters.

Did the past week feel like radio silence? Perhaps a quick backstory is required, especially since I’m playing catch up now. I was away at my parents’ hometown in celebration of Eid and extended my stay for another week; one-third was spent at my maternal Aunt’s place, where I literally did nothing but watched plenty random shows and ate crazier plenty, while two-thirds was spent in Singapore, a place I’ve visited countless times by now but this trip feels, no kidding, virginal because this is the first time I got to know and formed opinions about the city-country on my own, from my own sights and seeing.

The past five days in Lion City were, to put it simply, fucking fantastic.

Maybe even for the first time- legit, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about, this trip. 110% awesome, primarily because my host and close friend – my best friend-find from Stanford – is basically a living/walking Singapore encyclopedia. She just… knows so much about her island city-country, and even better, without neither the cynicism of an adult nor the immaturity of a child. Hence the word choice encyclopedia; facts on top of facts. To give her further credit, she herself is, honest to God, one of the loveliest, kindest, and most humble souls I’ve come across in my life thus far.

Yes, I count my blessings frequently for the people in my life – for damn well good reasons. Now you know.

Over the five days I was in Lion City, I shut out my real world, conveniently and deliberately put it on pause, choosing instead to discuss everything under the Singapore sun, namely the price of successful economic development – more or less, in response to the highly interesting and technical special report by The Economist in their August issue, in conjunction with SG50 – as well as the topic of water, ergo lots about my professional niche. I also discussed the topic of – what else? Pfft – marriage and relationships since my friend is six years older and also married (she and her husband are refreshingly non-clingy, so much that I can’t even begin to describe how happy this little knowledge made me feel). I was equally honest with her – in some ways, I think I view her as a mentor/life-senior – about my ongoing, inconclusive dilemma about the idea of home and subsequently, exactly where Malaysia and my mother fit in the spectrum of that four-letter word.

Speaking of, my mother picked me up from the airport and not even five minutes to returning home, words spilled like poison and cards were dealt. Reality check gushed forth, unforgiving as ever, until the ride turned into an excruciatingly long thirty minutes. Unsurprisingly too, of course every traffic light we encountered was always fucking red.

Now I sit here in the semi-darkness of my cavelike room in the family home, thirty-five minutes past midnight as I type this paragraph, and I think the honest truth is: I am angry. Furious. I accept. I accept my lot in life, my emotional woe, this reality I can’t change – I am no longer a child, I accept them with the grace and maturity of an adult – but I admit, the burning anger that oftentimes accompany this bitter aftertaste is still something I need to work on. I am, to be honest, not as nice as others perceive me to be; this so-called good daughter role I have perfected. I confess too, that I am pleased to admit this out loud because this sheds light on another trait of mine: I am not as weak-minded and characteristically weak like people might think. All I’m saying is, don’t mistake my silence for stupidity, naivety, or obliviousness.

Today has been long, painfully long. Did the past five days really take place?

In the intensity of everything that unfolded pre-Lion City and not even thirty minutes of being back on home soil, that blissful ignorance burst. Exploded. Needless to say, if previously I never fully appreciated the role that traveling plays and represents in my life – well, now I damn well do. Traveling to me, isn’t just about sights and seeing. It’s not just about feeding my curiosity about horizons beyond my reach, those forever outside of my grasp, but it’s about understanding how much my life, my self, are in need of stability and normalcy and static. It’s about celebrating the simple things in life, those that are oftentimes so obvious they’re naturally taken for granted – great company, sumptuous food, natural landscapes that humble the soul, et cetera – not to fake wisdom, but to remind myself, over and over lest I forget the extent to which my life and my self are mine. God is the only one who can top that, but in terms of mortal beings and inanimate objects; so long that I wrong no one and honor my responsibilities, I owe nobody for the kind of life I choose and decide for myself.

Basically: traveling is like this sacred space I periodically enter to preserve my sanity.

One of the decisions I recently made which I intend to uphold is to keep rolling with positive vibes. Rewrite my narratives with glass half-full perspectives, not half-empty. My stories can have tragic endings, that’s okay because only the foolish believes that all stories end with happily ever after; how I choose to tell a story is what makes all the difference.

I haven’t forgotten. I damn well won’t.

Really, at the end of a day – even one as long and complicated and heavy like today – it is pertinent I remember that I am the decision-maker. No matter how well-meaning others may be, I call the shots. My life does not belong to me – it is borrowed – nor do I belong to myself – this too, is borrowed – but autonomy, that I have. The ability to reason and decide, that I have. A sound mind and maturity, those too. A steadfast belief towards a Higher Power for all the things I can’t control, solid yes.

In short, I have within me the ability, intellect, and strength to decide for myself.

I will honor and hold steadfast to that, thank you very much.

“It’s not that I am unhappy about home, despite the tone of my write-ups … Home is different and I maintain that ‘different’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Home has been great, but my postings aren’t dishonest and untrue either. This might sound ironic, a paradox [but] I think it’s just that I am honest, painfully honest, through writing. My write-ups hold the voice of my most authentic self.”


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