you as you are (not I, as I am).

I was offshore for a week last week and it was an absolutely special trip. I went with 3 others – 2 engineers whom are both those I’m closest with in my project team, and a newly-acquainted colleague-friend who turned out to be a real pal. There was so much to learn, technically and personally, in the one week I was there and I enjoyed every moment of my time there.

I’ll be honest: I’m currently experiencing withdrawals – I’ve been back for 24 hours – and wished I’d extended my stay.

Looking back, there’s an abundance of things to reflect on, both professionally and personally. There were likewise as many hilarious moments as there were poignant ones. Offshore life is strange sometimes, in that way where bonds are forged swiftly because we’re in the middle of nowhere – literally, the middle of the South China Sea – for long weeks with the same 300 people (and eventually you do recognize all 300 faces) in a confined space where we did everything together from eating to working to even ha, waking up at the same time – it felt like camp? I savored, truly, every moment of this trip.

Some friends take years to earn my trust and perspectives; yet in the middle of the sea, I gave these away for free.

Meaning – I also made a new friend, albeit admittedly likely temporary, who occupied my mind today.

I do not want to overthink this, or him; I merely want to write about this in the context of myself – this baggage and insecurity, likely fear, I continue to shoulder. And it is that I always fall, light though this free-falling is, for those I cannot have. I mean this by… 3 weeks ago, Third Sis had randomly asked, in Malaysian context, “Would you date a Malay boy?”

We were in the midst of crossing the street.

“Well,” I finally replied, and was just about to say more before she cut me off. “If you didn’t mind,” she said, “It wouldn’t take you so long to answer.” I was going to speak up again in protest, but decided against it. She was half-right; I meant to say that my issue has never been a racial one, instead a religious one – that it would’ve been so much easier, I almost want to admit needing things to play out such that for those whom I like… they could be of any color; they just need – I need – them to be Muslim. I’m painting a controversial picture, I know – it’s an unruly statement – but it’s my honest truth.

Recently I had this thought: the thing about adulthood which I’ve come to understand is that our lives are measured and defined by the decisions we make – the paths we choose to tread and in their place, those we thus give up.

Understanding the above, I had this thought: I wish I spent my younger years, my early twenties, being less afraid.

In the past, whenever I’d find myself liking someone – almost always a friend of a different race and religion – I’d back away or deny until these feelings naturally fade. I’d never act upon my feelings, and only admit feeling too much of anything to myself. I was… basically, risk-averse, and often rejected myself before anything could ever happen because – and for a long time I’d use this as my primary excuse – “I can’t walk the line; I can’t see this through to the end.” 

I’d always wonder, whenever I look at couples who’d made the leap – interracial, inter-religious, intercontinental… – and wonder how they could ever make such a decision. Especially when they’re Muslims (and practicing), because I have real-life examples too close to heart and the reality is, the pictures aren’t as beautiful as they’re often painted to be.

I think of my mother, and at her sight, my heart will always break a little.

Now I’m 26 – ‘late-twenties’, finally – and I’m content with where and who I am. I’m fine and enjoy being single and a company of one; it’s how I’ve always coasted through and live my life, after all. But if love were to come by, in whatever color and shape, I’d told myself I’d take that leap. Because the reality in adulthood is, there’s so little that we know. In truth, we make decisions based on what we know and believe up to this point, and though they may not be the right ones… they feel right in this particular moment, in this particular light. I’ve come to understand, at long last, that perhaps this is enough.

But this boy comes along in this magical week of being in literal middle of nowhere, and reminds me again of what I have yet to do away from – the fact that I have a clear preference. Run as I might… sigh. Though I’m half of what they ethnically are (and that’s about all there is to our similarities, I think), I… maybe it’s a familiarity thing? A preference because I identify more with them than I do with the color of my culture. But I’ve also long understood and accepted that no matter how I try or think of myself as ‘one of them’ – I will never. I will never be fully accepted and more than this being due to the color of my second-halve identity, it’s mainly due to my Muslim-ness.

This boy comes along and he’s so warm – also cute – and speaks with the same Malaysian-ness that I do. We mix our words in Malay and English, though often banter in the former because he’s fantastic (better than I am probably, ha) at it. We struck an immediate friendship, as I always tend to let happen, and feelings eventually became somewhat fuzzy because of the close proximity and heightened frequency of interactions in a day when offshore. Now I’m back to shore – also reality – and understand as I did days ago (I like to think this is because at 26 now, I am now more mature than years past) that nothing will take place between us aside from this friendly work-relationship. Still, he will join that homogenous list of those from my past – the ones I have hidden; denied; rejected by rejecting myself; implicitly drew the boundary line…

Though I think I understand life as an adult better now versus when I was in my late teens and early twenties, I am… in reality, in the end, and even in a merely hypothetical scenario – I remain a coward. Still held back by fear, carrying baggage.

Why am I, from when I was little until now, attracted to those I cannot have?

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