Friday, 30 March 2018

We are engaged!

As little children, we dreamt about the day when we would become that policeman, teacher or chef that we have always aspired to be. We played make believe with our childhood playmates, walking down that imaginary aisle in our 'wedding gowns and suits'. We put our soft toys to sleep, as though they were our precious little babies. We bubbled with excitement at the thought of, one day, becoming an adult, and being able to finally pursue all the things that we have always dreamt of.

But as the years go by, as we begin to have a glimpse of how mundane, tiring, frustrating, and sometimes nerve-wrecking, adulthood can be, we start to lose our wonder. Perhaps, that dream job is not as exciting as it seemed. Perhaps, weddings are more of a diplomatic event than a genuine celebration of the union of a couple. Perhaps, marriage is a constant tug of war between a husband and wife, rather than the epitome of an unbreakable bond. Perhaps, children are more of a nuisance once they outgrow their cute and cuddly phase. Our idealism turns into skepticism, and then, finally, to cynicism. 

Last night, we strolled down the beach, hand-in-hand, pondering about the prospects of adulthood. The taste of sangria and garlic prawns from dinner still lingered in my mouth. The sound of the waves gently lapping on the shore, and the colourful lights emanating from the ships afar, set the mood for a romantic evening stroll back to our Airbnb apartment. Our trip in Tenerife had thus far been spectacular - from seeing an orca for the first time, to watching the sunset above a sea of clouds and kayaking in the ocean with dolphins jumping around! Yet, in spite of all that, the thought of adulthood unwittingly dampened my spirits and created a domino effect of negativity. We talked about home ownership, and weddings, and children; and the deeper we went, the more emotional and angsty I became. In the past few years, I've started to become cynical about those who idealise having their own homes, getting married, and having kids. And with confirmation bias, I became cynical of those things in themselves. I guess it is all part of that quarter-life crisis that immature 'young adults' like myself tend to go through. We just cannot accept the fact that we are growing up.

Throughout the conversation, you kept telling me that everything would be okay as long as we go through it together. To be honest, it didn't help. In fact, it made me all the more annoyed that you always have a way to make things seem so simple. Simply loving each other will not solve all our problems. It will not make them go away. It. is. not. that. simple. I kept trying to put that across but all you did was to assure me, and reassure me, that it would somehow be okay. We just had to take things one step at a time. Deep down, I knew that you were probably right and I was being unnecessarily negative but I just couldn't brush off the feeling of apprehension. We couldn't come to a conclusion, and so we left it as that. 

While I was showering, guilt hit me like it always does after we bicker. 'Again. I always have a way of ruining something that would otherwise have been perfect,' I thought, as I started to sob in the shower. I recalled the night that we argued to the point of tears over phone, and meeting each other the next day with puffy eyes to celebrate your birthday for the first time together. I remembered the multiple times we walked out of a fancy restaurant in the midst of a date to settle our disputes. I thought of the days when we were on the verge of breaking up, and how we somehow managed to work our way through them, with our faces soaked in tears and our hearts clawed open. Those days were long gone but the fear of an unknown future with brand new challenges gripped me. I didn't think I could go through those heartbreaks and self-bashing all over again. It seemed so difficult to step out of the status quo.

I wiped away my tears, chucked those irrational thoughts aside, stepped out of the shower and headed back to our tent. And that was when I saw the candles on the floor. You held my hand and said that you had something to tell me. 'Wow. He is really overdoing his apology,' I thought, until I saw the camera on the tripod. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that you would ask me for my hand after what we just went through; after what we just talked about. You looked me in the eye and started stringing up slightly touching but awkward sentences, in an attempt to recall what you had written. You finally gave up. And that was when you started tearing up. You said you didn't know what the future would be like but you could never imagine it without me. That sentence yanked at my heartstrings. This was the boy that I first fell in love with, standing right in front of me, being completely honest, vulnerable and sincere. I didn't need you to tell me that everything is going to be okay. I didn't need solutions. What I needed to hear was that you cannot do life without me, as I cannot without you. And that gave me the courage to brave the storms of life with you, and to have the confidence that we would somehow stick together through it all. You asked if I would give you the honour of spending the rest of my life with you. I said yes. 

Just a few days ago, I told you how I didn't understand why people say 'congratulations' when a couple gets engaged, and why they say 'sorry' when they hear that someone's loved one has passed away. Marriage is not exactly something to be celebrated and the passing of someone's loved one is not the fault of the person who utters the apology. But I think I see it now... When people say 'congratulations' or 'sorry', they are not unaware of the problems of marriage or the fact that their apology will not bring a dead person back to life. They say them because in spite of these challenges and impossibilities, there are things worth celebrating and comfort worth giving. 

So, I will accept all your congratulations with heartfelt gratitude, knowing that the road ahead will be an arduous one. Marriage is such a big and scary word but I thank God that of all the men in the world, I am going to wrestle it with you. I love you, my fiancé.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

It's not easy to not give a damn

These days, I find it harder and harder to open up to other people. Perhaps, as I grow older, I am becoming more and more reserved. Or perhaps, it is because I am becoming more aware of just how brutal society has become is.

As a teenager, I remember not giving a damn about what others thought about me. I mean, yes, I wanted to 'be like the cool kids' (Echosmith, 2013); but I never felt the need to prove myself to be smarter, more capable, more confident, and more tenacious than I really was. It was absolutely 'okay' to fail a test. It didn't matter that I spent my after school hours cheerleading and playing netball (not for the school team), both of which didn't add any value to my curriculum vitae. It didn't cross my mind that I had to hold back my tears when I was too afraid to touch that stupid frog in an orientation camp game, which caused my team to lose. And I always said whatever the heck I wanted - which costed me a very painful lesson when I talked back to a senior lieutenant colonel while I was a cadet trainee. I've learned to bite my tongue and respect the rank.

But today... Today, I find myself being exceedingly proficient at writing a politics essay on a topic that I, frankly, know nuts about. Why? Entering my forth year of higher education in the UK, I think I've mastered the art of writing a decently good essay - it's not about how much you really know. It's about how well you convince the examiner of how much you know. Today, I find myself always having to hold back my tears in front of others when I'm frustrated, disappointed, or hurt, only to let it all out the moment I shut my room door. We're told that being too emotional is not a good thing. Today, I find myself barely saying anything in large groups, unless I'm compelled to. And even when I do, it is because I've scanned it through my mind at least three times to make sure that it is a rock-solid point that I have to contribute. Today, I find myself double - no triple - checking my blog posts, instagram captions, and facebook posts, before clicking the 'Post' button. Let's call it, self-censoring.

And unwittingly, I realise that this has affected my relationships with other people. I've stopped bitching and gossiping about others with my girlfriends, which I suppose is a good thing. But with that, I've also stopped breaking down in tears even with the people closest to me (except for Marcus - putting this out here otherwise he would surely object!). I've stopped sharing my problems, partly because I don't want to burden others and partly because it makes me vulnerable. I've stopped expressing my most genuine convictions, probably because I don't want to seem too 'extreme' or 'un-nuanced'. And I no longer do silly things with friends - re-watching high school musical through the night, dancing to K-POP music, taking lots of embarrassing selfies, and writing meaningless post-it notes for each other - because no one does them, at least not with other people, anymore. It would seem all too silly now.

But here's the truth. While I may seem more 'qualified' (in a societal sense) as a graduate or an employee, the truth is I have barely changed. What you see on my graduation certificate, my curriculum vitae, and my personal statement is probably bull shit. (I'm probably going to regret saying this but heck it.) The truth is, I'm a politics graduate but I love Justin Trudeau just because he is handsome. Who cares about his policies? The truth is, I prefer celebrity gossip over Brexit news. The truth is, I mentally roll my eyes every times someone asks me for my political views the moment they hear that I study politics. Can we talk about something else? The truth is, I cry, no, I bawl, when I'm furious - it always makes me feel better. The truth is, while I'm completely silent in a discussion group, I'm cursing at stupid people with stupid views in my head. (I know, very illiberal of me. #sorrynotsorry) The truth is, I spend my time doing silly things like watching Korean reality shows, dancing in front of the mirror, taking 1,001 selfies with different filters, and making random lists like 'nice baby names' and 'things that make me happy'.

So yes, I've let the cat out of the bag - although, really, it's not much of a secret because I'm sure everyone has things they do or think in private as well. So, what's keeping us from displaying them? Is it because how of brutal and judgmental society is? Or is it just because we care too much about what other people think?

Perhaps, this is a quote to consider:

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