Across The Universe

    There’s something about Fiona’s calming voice that keeps me coming back to this song. I remember there was a time when I kept playing it on repeat, staring off to the distance while hanging onto the repeated mantra: nothing’s going to change my world. I wanted somebody to reassure me, even if it […]

Marnie & I

When I was younger, I didn’t know how to talk to people.

Painfully shy, I would say. Always found wandering alone in the hallways of my school. I amused myself by creating stories about other people, giving them nicknames. I found ways to avoid socialising altogether: lagging back behind a group, making myself appear as boring as possible or electing certain people that are deemed “okay” to talk to. I wanted to disappear and appear at the same time. Some people might call this an “introversion”, that it is normal and it’s just how certain people function. But I knew I didn’t want that kind of life. It felt meaningless, like I could disappear and nobody would notice. So when Standard 6 ended and high school beckoned, I jumped at the chance of a new life. There were still kids from my primary school – hell, my best friends now knew me since I was 7 – but there were these other kids and the hope for a blank slate.

Now, when I tell people this, they don’t believe me. Mainly because I don’t seem to know how to shut up most of the time. There was even a point during my university days where I was rotating groups of friends to hang out with so that I don’t neglect any of them. If I told my 11 year old self that I’d have so many friends that it became a nuisance, she’d probably wouldn’t believe me. Or knowing my former self, she would probably think I’m making it up to make her feel better. But somewhere along the lines, life became kinder, or I became bolder. Talking became easy and natural. Sometimes I even crave being the centre of attention, quipping jokes as fast as I could. I had come so far that it felt like we were two different people and my past didn’t make sense.

But a former shy person will always remember and sometimes, there is a fear of – for the lack of a better term – a relapse. Like, somehow I forgot how to do it again, this talking thing. Probably why I strongly hate awkward silences; they feel like quicksand. And even more troublesome, the need to have some sort of approval from others.

During that turn of my life, I read a book called “When Marnie Was There” by Joan G Robinson. To say that it hit close to home would be an understatement. I was Anna the protagonist, her thoughts echoed mine. She was also painfully shy and was in denial of her longing to belong. My favourite part from the book reflected the state of my mind then:

But Anna was not interested. Not any more. She knew perfectly well … that things like parties and best friends and going to tea with people were fine for everyone else, because everyone else was “inside” – inside some sort of invisible circle. But Anna herself was outside. And so these things had nothing to do with her.

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Mine For Now

“I just want to hold on to it for as long as I can. Just to feel like it’s mine.”

My friend was eating when she heard me say that and she was visibly touched. We’re both in the same boat. My other friend listened in. She was curious, maybe a little sympathetic but I know she doesn’t know how we both really feel. The romantic idea of owning something you can’t actually have. A promise that will soon be broken. If I could reach into my computer screen, I would pat the email like I would to a cat on sale in a pet store.

A few months back on this blog, I had mentioned about my plans to further my studies in UK. If you have read that post before, you’d also know that I already received an unconditional offer to go to Durham and I was waiting for a financial loan. Everything was set. It felt so real that I was even subconsciously planning my life overseas. Cancelling my insurance policy. Making plans to sell my car.

The day of my supposed orientation is on the 25th September 2014. A date that is coming up soon. Earlier on, I had planned to go off somewhere, anywhere, just so I could say, hah! I am still going places! You can’t tell me where to go! But now, the raw emotions have long subdued. Just another date. A happy occasion for others, I’m sure.

My financial loan application to a government body (MARA, if you’re familiar with it) was rejected. Twice, as a matter of fact. It was the only institution I applied for because I knew I at least had a fighting chance. My friend mentioned above tried a different route for her ticket to Glasgow; she applied for private institutions for scholarships but didn’t succeed either. Are we really surprised though? English majors are hardly prized and in this country, everyone still thinks our career ladder ends at teaching. You don’t need to go far to learn how to teach, they say.

Still, I asked the university to defer my offer next year. I said please. I asked if they needed me to do anything at all to make this happen. There was none. And now there’s an email in my inbox telling me the university is happy to welcome me next year. It’s a bit like having a photo of yourself with Mickey Mouse. I feel like framing it and putting it up on my wall.

I want to say, “See? This happened.”

I know people assumed that I’m being too defeatist, that I’m giving up. Giving up is like seeing the end and not having the determination to rush through. This is a bit like a maze where you don’t even know if there’s an end. English majors, or basically any Art/Humanities students, are not appreciated here. When I say there’s limited scholarships available, I mean 1 or 2. Perhaps a random third one comes along and they’re looking for the future Prime Minister, is it you? And you’re not competing against other Art students either. You’re competing with kids who are doctors, pharmacists, engineers, architects, whatever big name job title you can insert here. And there you are, trying to communicate to these people why Romanticism is a field worth paying hundreds and thousands of money.

There are no words that I can really say about giving up a dream. I’ve worked hard for more than 2 years to come to this conclusion and I’ve spent an even longer amount of time just dreaming about it.

Sometimes, shit happens.

Drumrolls Please…

In a few minutes, I will turn 24.

 

There’s something strange about how we attach meanings to the numbers according to our lives. From the age of 16 to 23, the months before my birthdays were always depressing because of my looming birthday. I got so caught up with the idea of who I was supposed to be at a certain age, that I couldn’t just celebrate that day or my life experience. Looking back now, it was so strange. And my expectations were so arbitrary: at the age of XX, I should be smarter, prettier, thinner, in a relationship etc. And the fact that I didn’t tick any of the boxes to those qualities was really upsetting.

Now, I just don’t care. This year’s birthday is the only time where I don’t anticipate it with dread. Hell, I just watched a video called “Unicorn Rainbow Poop Cookies“, how’s that for adulthood? I have outgrown that desire to reach idealistic society-sanctioned milestones. If it happens, it happens. It really doesn’t matter. People live their lives in various stages and some of you may reach that stage earlier than the rest. It doesn’t mean anything. Also, priorities: do you really care about those things or you feel that you’re supposed to care?

I know a lot of people are planners and that’s fine. You plan your life meticulously and I do admit that there are success stories behind the planning. But that’s not for me.

I’ve gone through a number of experiences that opened up my eyes to areas of life that I couldn’t possibly plan for. Maybe they’re not fantastic enough to be written on a card or to have a banquet dedicated to it but they are mine to keep and cherish. And I am looking forward to more of that. 🙂

Bring it on, 25!

So, that’s what you’ve missed out on…

No, this is not a recap of an episode from Glee (although, seriously, when will that show be cancelled?).

WordPress nudged me recently with an email, saying that I haven’t updated this blog this week. Thanks, WordPress, you’re like my mom if my mom knew what WordPress is. 

It’s weird, living life without a routine. You assume that you will get a lot done and your life will be topsy-turvy of things and more things! And it’s just not. I know, I am entirely responsible with how much productivity that is happening in my life as of right now. You pen-pushers out there are probably resentful with how I’m wasting my free time but really, guys, it’s not all that it cracked up to be. For one thing, not having a routine means higher chances of you procrastinating since you have no deadlines whatsoever. Regardless of what I just said, things are actually happening! That’s another weird thing, since you don’t have a structure in your life, you’re not entirely sure if things are happening or not happening. I’m going to list it down here and let you decide:

1. If it wasn’t clear from the paragraph above, I am currently unemployed. It’s a rather sticky situation and I’m actually hindered to go into specifics (mumble mumble corporate life). What you need to know is that I have decided to take a break from any employment because I can’t decide what I want to do with my life yet. Next week will be my one-month anniversary in not working. I know some people strive with unbridled freedom, I’ve realised earlier on that I am much more calm when I have a routine in place.

2. So, here’s the better news and the reason behind me not flipping through the classified ads just yet: I will be having a long holiday in the US in May! I will be travelling through Idaho, Nevada and California for a whopping 16 days with my family. We’ve been planning this since last year. I’m really excited and I’ve been trying to save as much money as I can so I could enjoy myself proper. This will be my therapy thanks to my exit from employment, truth to be told. But because I’ll be missing a good 12 working days, I’m a little reluctant to have a headstart in another company because I know this will be an issue. You don’t want to hire somebody who will be immediately not available. 

3. You thought that’s simple right? No. If you know me personally or have been reading my earlier blog posts, you will know that I am currently applying for my Masters in the UK. I have done the hard part back in February and waited. And now, the results are in: I’ve got an offer to study in the University of Durham! 😀 (This deserves an emoticon so there!) So, yes, a lot of things are happening and they’re big things. God knows how I’ve been handling this emotionally. For one thing, Durham is my first option and to know that I’ve actually got it… It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m trying to snag funding for this so I’ve been suppressing my own emotions until it’s confirmed that I am Durham-bound. No money, no Durham, simple as that. So, I’ve been keeping things cool and having my options open. I will find out in mid-April if I do receive funding. Until then, I’m not doing any preparations yet. I am a realist!

We are just sneaking into April but, so far, my 2014 has been insane. There are many plans to be made but they’re sort of related to one another so it’s another round of the waiting game for me before everything falls into place. I really hope things will go my way this year. On a more recent event, UnRepresented KL is already moving onto its last leg:

4. We had our Week 5 last week and in a couple of days, we are going for Week 6 (there are 10 weeks altogether). Last Wednesday, we’ve already sent in our first draft of our writing to the organisers and Bernice Chauly, who happens to be our next guest speaker. If you’re familiar with the Malaysian literary scene, you know she’s a force to be reckoned with. And she will be commenting on our work alongside the organisers! I am incredibly anxious about this because I am my worst critic. Also, we get to read the works of everyone else in this programme and, to be honest, I am slightly cowed by them. I am this close to chucking everything and rewriting it from scratch. I’ll wait until I hear everybody else’s comments before I do something crazy. 

 

So that’s that. I know I’ve said I’m not doing anything much, which is true. You know what they say, the days are long but the years are short.There are a lot of things going on but, at the same time, not really? I’ll stop here.

You are now updated with my life!

It’s personal

You know what they say: if you want something different to happen to you, you need to do something differently. Chase after your dreams and all that jazz. What’s hardly been pointed out is how hard it is.

It’s almost crippling.

These past few weeks have been dedicated solely to my pursuit for a Master’s degree in UK. I’ve spent many days handling documents, emailing and meeting people and writing essays. And through all that, I was on “cruise” mode. I didn’t want to think. The minute I think about it, I start to feel. And before I know it, I go through the 7 stages of grief in a single hour. Rinse and repeat. So, I’ve been avoiding connecting the process with any form of emotion, not even hope. It’s too easy to slip from hopefulness to bitterness. It just happens.

But I needed to write my personal statement and, as it goes, it’s personal.

And just like that, I’m paralysed with doubt. I am suddenly incredibly exhausted about the entire process. I feel like taking a break. At this point, my application is 80% done. I just need to wait for a reference from one of my referees and complete my personal statement. My damn personal statement. Every time I reread a paragraph, I become more convinced that I’m the most ordinary human to ever want something.

I’m not always like this, I usually do not have a bad self-image of myself. But how do you tell yourself you’re capable of something which you were denied of just a year ago? Part of me believe that I’m a much smarter person now, more level-headed and matured by experience. Then, I read my personal statement and it reads somewhat similar to the previous one I wrote last year… Have I changed enough? Is it ever enough?

I know I told myself I wasn’t going to wallow. That’s one of my 2014 resolutions, really. But I’m going give myself a pass just this once. There’s really no point in trying to shove something aside, when it constantly pops up in your mind anyways.

And here we are!

Welcome me to your bosoms, WordPress buddies. Mates. Comrades. Friends. Frenemies.

I used to have a Blogger account – well, it’s still there – but I’ve decided that maybe, yes, WordPress is the place to go. Graduating from the kiddie pool. There’s a whole reasoning for that, which I will not go into here because I’m starting to feel a bit sleepy.

The url smashthebelljar was once a Tumblr blog, which now no longer exists. You may steal the tumblr address. I created it when I was feeling particularly sad for myself. Now, in hindsight, I realised maybe I’m just a melancholic person to begin with. It’s really hard to break the moping cycle at times; it feels too natural, very “in character”. There are times where I have to take myself out of my own headspace to know the real reason why I was even sad. You know, look at the dates on the calendar. Figure out if it’s all really just biology. You know.

Bell jar here is a reference to Sylvia Plath. A lady whose writing I adore but also scares me. When I first read “The Bell Jar”, I didn’t understand how Esther went crazy. It felt like a spontaneous combustion. It didn’t help that I could relate to her in so many ways, I wondered if I was on a pathway to a madhouse. That I was just simmering underneath. Of course, now that I’m older, I understood why Esther became who she is. We are all complex beings, different with our own personalised set of triggers.

Still, the bell jar exists at times and I do feel, that despite the change of scenery, I am breathing the same stale air as before. However, I made a vow that I will not wallow in this. Times a-changing. It’s 2014 and it’s time to dream again!

Welcome to my blog.