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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Alabaster jar


My love, do you not love me anymore?

You used to greet me every morning with your smile that would light up the world. You used wrap me in your warm embrace that my heart could never grow cold. You used to whisper into my ears how much you loved me; I knew you could never be too far away.

But- where are you today when I need you most?

They tell me I am not loved; that I am nothing but a speck of dust in this vast universe that you did not create for me. They push me against the wall - so hard(!) that it takes the breath out of me - and ask me where in the world are you.

You see me - don't you? I know you're watching, my guardian, you always, always watch over me. Then why are you not coming to me? Does your heart not hurt to see me naked and bruised, lying on the floor like a helpless babe?

I know you're somewhere out there watching over me; I've heard my friends say that they've seen you. I know, I swear I know. But I need that sturdy arms of yours to lift me up. I need to hear you say that you love me, so that I can learn to love myself again. I need you to stitch that broken heart of mine and so that it can, once more, start beating for you.

Here I am, take me.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Winter paranoia


It's 12:57PM and the skies are grey. In about three and a half hours, it will be completely dark outside. I sit and watch, as darkness creeps into the room - minute by minute. I have barely started the day but it is almost time to draw it to a close.

I turn on the lights, turn up the heater, strip off my Primark jumper and PJs, and put on a fresh set of tank-top-and-shorts. Maybe, this will feel more like home.

But it doesn't. The impulse to smash the fluorescent lightbulbs grows bigger and bigger, as I come to realise that summer is not something that I can conjure.

I need to lie flat on the sand, to let the intense heat of the afternoon sun scorch my pale English skin. I need to drown myself in perspiration, and choke myself with humid air that makes it hard to breathe. I need to know that the sun rises at 7AM and sets at 7PM every day; that I have 12 - no more and no less - functional hours. I need to step out of the house in my army admin tee, FBTs and flip flops and not shiver like a wobbly plate of jelly on an amateur waiter's hand. I need to crave for a refreshing cup of iced black tea macchiato - not a warm cup of Earl Grey, damn it - after a long walk under the sun.

But for now, the least I could do is to put on my Spotify playlist and write. At least this feels like home.

Monday, 30 October 2017

23


My good friends would probably know how much I love Facebook's "On This Day" function. Occasionally, I would send them screenshots of pictures that have been uploaded many years ago - sometimes to celebrate our age-old friendship but most of the time, to have a good laugh at how silly we used to be.

Today, as I perused the pictures that I took and words that I said four, five, six and seven years ago, I was taken aback by what a completely different person I used to be(!) The me today would shake my head in absolute disapproval at the attention-seeking, edgy, and sometimes insecure person that I used to be. Yes, the girl who put on a pair of black tights under her mini almost-butt-revealing skirt before stepping out of the house (just to please her concerned mother), only to take it off as soon as she got to the bus stop. The girl who went to school without her textbooks just because they couldn't fit into her handbag. The girl who was always, always, always on her headphones because she needed to shut herself off from the rest of the world, listening to Simple Plan-Green Day-Linkin Park on repeat and feeling even more angsty than before. The girl who refused to obey when the discipline mistress instructed her to unpick the ends of her pinafore (to bring it back to its original length), leaving the teacher with no choice but to unpick it for her. That girl was me.

But I wasn't just that girl.

I was also, a couple of years down the road, the girl who studied day and night just to prove the principal wrong; to prove her that despite emerging at the bottom of the class in almost every exam and never passing A-math, I did not have to take her advice to drop the subject. By the grace of God, I emerged at the top of the class in the actual O Level Examination. I was also the girl who joined the army with a lofty aspiration of becoming a scholar and making a significant contribution to my country. I was also the girl who cried for a whole day when I received my poorer-than-expected A Level results, which stripped me of my scholarship.

But who am I today, at 23?

I think,

I am a confident (although sometimes misunderstood as shameless) individual. I am (still) driven by my ideals, but no longer defeated by setbacks in life (I hope!). I've learned to pick myself up, say "it's okay", and just keep swimming. (*hums* Dory's tune) I am not a huge fan of authority and I (still) occasionally make a passive-aggressive retort when my bullshit-radar is activated but I've understood how to show respect where respect is due. Angst and insecurity are emotional states that I rarely find myself in these days. I no longer search for happiness in human affirmation or material success because I've found my permanent source of joy. I try not to judge others because I know everyone, like myself, has a story behind who they appear to be or the things that they say. But. I continue to struggle with trying not to repay an eye for an eye. I still find it hard to go an extra mile for someone that I frankly don't give a damn about. And I, despite trying to be non-judgmental, cringe at people who see things in black-and-white, albeit knowing that it's a mere personality trait.

The person that I am today seems like a complete stranger to the person that I was four years ago, better yet eight years ago. Yet, they were all different versions of me, at different seasons of my life. Who I am today is an accumulation of the past 23 years of human experience. As I turn 23, it seems like I've finally arrived at the point of self-actualisation. 23 years of human experience have culminated in what seems to me as the best version of myself thus far. Of course, there is still a lifetime of experiences awaiting me.

Yet, who knows what tomorrow will hold? Perhaps at 30, I would indeed write another reflection on how much I've learned in the past seven years. Or perhaps, the pressures of the workplace and a new family would nullify the years of presumed enlightenment in my early 20s. Let's hope it's the former. I pray for wisdom.

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, "I have no pleasure in them"...
-Ecclesiastes 12:1

Friday, 18 August 2017

Beauty in brokenness


I sit at the edge of the bedroom - the one and only bedroom in this small apartment that was built for newly-weds - and watch my siblings crawl out of slumber. Before I left for the UK, my sister and I shared a room to ourselves in our old home. My brother had his own room while the two young ones slept with our parents. Although it may sound like a crowd - trust me - it was beyond comfortable.

I came home for the summer after my first year in the UK. Despite all the mental prep that "we had to downsize to a smaller home", "you won't have a room for yourself" and "you might not even have your own closet", I could not get used to the fact that I no longer had my own privacy, let alone a proper place to unpack my clothes. I have to admit, even though I tried to be a good daughter and refrained from grumbling, I was, at many times, frustrated. Moreover, the drastic change from having my own room to "squeezing" in a shared room of the same size made it all the more unbearable. Mind you, we are a family of seven.

When I came home for the summer after my second year, I was told that a loft has been built for my sister and I to share. An aircon was installed as well, probably because my mum knew how hard it would be for me to sleep in such intense humidity. Perhaps, she had sense my discomfort during the previous year's summer after all. The second summer was considerably more comfortable since I had my (makeshift) personal room space.

This is my third summer back at home. My mum asked if I would prefer to sleep in the loft or in the room. I chose the room. I don't know why I did that, but I chose to sleep where my baby sister would roll over to my side and steal my blanket in the middle of the night, where my mum and brother would snore through the night in perfect harmony, and where I was in the midst of five other warm bodies. (My dad lovingly gave up his spot for the couch.) Am I uncomfortable, though? Not at all.

It takes me an average of one to two hours to fall asleep in the UK, regardless of how tired I am. On bad days, it could go up to three, or even four. At home, in the presence of my family, it takes minutes. This, I cannot explain.

What I can say is that even though things have gotten tougher for my family, things have not gotten uglier. Despite the initial discomfort and occasional grumblings, we have gotten closer as a family.

I guess there is beauty in brokenness, after all.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Be satisfied but don't settle


It's 2a.m. in the morning. I had a really long day at work and what's worse? Instead of heading home for a nice and simple meal whipped up by my mother, I was obliged to have a couple of drinks with my colleagues at our same old hangout. As usual, the "couple of drinks" turned out to be a night-long conversation about office gossips, the latest season of Rick and Morty, and our future ambitions if we ever decide to leave the military. Again, as usual, the 15-minute train ride home felt like an eternity. "If only I could teleport... If only I could teleport... If only I could teleport..." I chanted in my head, dying to go home, get clean, and hit the sack.

It's 2a.m. in the morning. I am finally in the comfort of my bedroom, surrounded by the familiar sound of my baby sister's breath. I am just about to put an end to my rather mediocre day when my second sister starts whining about her high school woes. She is one and a half years away from having to decide what she wants to do with her life. (Well, not her entire life but what she wants to study in university, which would - sort of - dictate direct the subsequent years of her life.) Problem is: she's got absolutely no clue what she wants! We spend an hour throwing out career options and the relevant degree programmes, while I struggle to fight off the strong desire to drift into slumber. Another hour goes by and we seem even more confused than before. And then, silence. I guess she fell asleep. Or maybe, she just needs time to think and process everything. It's probably time for me to return to my former preoccupation.

I am still very very tired but somehow, my mind is not ready to call it a day. I drift into a semi-conscious state. I go back to my high school days, when I was filled with ambition, like my sister, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life but convicted that I wanted to do many meaningful things in this lifetime. My university days flash across my mind, like blurred images - those you have in dreams, in the final hours of sleep, just before you are greeted by the morning sun - and a sense of pride fills my belly. I have come a long way, indeed, and I'm sure my 18-year-old self would be proud of where I am today.

I linger on that sense of pride and attempt savour every bit of it but it fades away too quickly. I am suddenly overtaken by a tinge of regret that, within seconds, manifests itself into an overwhelming sense of dread. Yes, my 18-year-old self would be proud of where I am today but my 80-year-old self wouldn't. "What happened to that determination that got you through military training? What happened to that excitement that got you typing away after every dream, and experience, and epiphany? What happened to that YOLO attitude that motivated you to do silly things that you now and then look back and laugh at?" These questions flood my mind with an unrelenting determination. Tired? I am no longer tired.

I am turning 23 in three months. Without realising it, I have succumbed to the demon of adulthood. When I was 18, I had lofty dreams about backpacking Europe. I have been in the UK for three years now but have NEVER backpacked Europe. "Why backpack when you can afford a comfortable room to sleep in?" the demon of adulthood whispers in my ears. When I first joined the army four years ago, I told myself that I must jump out of a plane one day. I begged and persisted, and begged and persisted, for a chance to be put on the Airborne course but the reply was always, "wait." Four years on, I find myself discouraged and no longer even asking. "Just focus on your career," the demon of adulthood slaps me in the face. When I was 19, I discovered my passion for writing and I could spend hours narrating a story for my handful of readers. Now, (I think) I would very much rather spend the evening on a brainless show after a long day at work."What's the point in spending so much time on something you're not being paid for? It's not worth it," the demon of adulthood lectures me.

But tonight, I will not be seduced. I will not turn the other cheek. And I will not be lectured. Let me tell you, I will backpack because I am 23 and should do it while I still can. I will try again and again to pursue the experiences that I've always wanted, even if they do not value-add to my career, because one day, I will regret if I didn't even try. And I will invest my time and effort in my passion even if it doesn't pay because THAT IS WHAT PASSION IS.

-

For those who are reading this, whether you are 18, in your 20s, 30s, or even 50s, it is not too late to pursue what you've always wanted to do but have yet to do so. Of course, there are career decisions we have made and cannot undo. There are seasons of our lives that we did not cherish and can no longer relive. There are mountains that we have always wanted to scale but no longer have the stamina to do so. But- There are also many other things that you've jotted down in your mental bucket list years ago and may have neglected. For those things, I shall steal Emma Watson's quote (and yes, take it out of context), "if not me, who? If not now, when?"
© Melody Sim | All rights reserved.