Thursday, September 20, 2018

BY PROVIDENCE

So, a lot has happened since my last post, and I will try to place them in linear chronological order so you might be able to follow my thought process in the past, I dunno what, five days?

The day after it was posted, Luca (who happens to be British), the last guy I dated, said to me in a text: "just to offer a non-Singaporean perspective, a doctor here told me that they very rarely prescribe SSRIs to locals and also seemed to think that medication could be a hindrance to therapy. I think that Singapore is lagging behind in this respect."

Of course I'd already known that, but he was sweet though, and I appreciate it. I know pills aren't a surefire method, but the people here are still very resistant to the idea of medicating for mental health. It's like, if you thought sex was taboo here, I think they shudder at taking pills for mental health.

I think it's even worse in religious communities, where of course, anything you think or feel is usually pinned on you, for not being "close to God", because to them, God is the solution to anything and everything. I just feel like it's a double jeopardy situation, where my mental health is closely linked to my familial bonds, but even when I know I'm doing poorly and want to seek help, I can't find the moral support to treat it, medically.

I don't know if my manager Aileen read my post, but she could see on Instagram that I hadn't had a stable week, so she texted me too.
Aileen: Hi Sarah
Aileen: I hope you're feeling better
Aileen: With whatever you're dealing with
Aileen: I'm here if you need me to listen
Aileen: Even after three months
Aileen: But I just wanted to say thank you. You have a good heart. You're a good person, thank you for supporting our team. Your presence makes me calm and happy.
Aileen: Thank you Sarah. Thank you for being part of the best team I can ever ask for
We have a joke between us because the last time she had a personal story to tell me, we somehow never got to sitting down and talking until three months after I first asked her about it. I love Aileen, she is the best manager you could ask for, she's usually calm and composed and encouraging and so very accepting.

I know I usually say I don't enjoy working, but that's because I'm in retail and the people here (or maybe everywhere) aren't very courteous to retail staff. The team, though, has been nothing short of amazing. I don't know if I gravitated towards Lush because it's a campaigning company, and we are one of the very few companies in Singapore that are openly accepting towards hiring the LGBTQIA+ community, etc.

Sometime on Saturday, I was like, this is it, I can't stay in Singapore, this is not the place for me, so I tried to open a Chase savings account so that less money I earn would be contributed to this goddamn stupid dictatorial Singapore economy. I obviously needed a social security number, but I don't have one unless and until I get my working visa, yadda yadda yadda.

I think if I apply for Lush in the US, I might wanna try to do manufacturing. We don't have a manu team in Singapore, 'cos we don't have a Lush factory here. I think it might be fun to make the products, instead of selling them in retail, I dunno. I think retail staff really do God's work, facing people all the time.

Viv then told me about a friend of hers who'd also received similar treatment (or lack thereof) at the Institute of Mental Health, who'd received much better treatment from JCU's psych office, and whose case would be expedited even with a waitlist, based on the same details she'd provided. I emailed JCU psych, and they called back within two days.

I told her my story over the phone, my tendencies for suicidal ideation, that I veer very easily between being okay, and my depressive moods, and the fact that sometimes I'm okay makes it very hard to catch me suddenly drop in moods for no reason. She was very worried, and she says she would also try to expedite my appointment, even though there definitely is a waitlist.

(I infer from the fact that there is a high demand/long waitlist at JCU's psych, that either the psychiatrists/therapists available in Singapore are not providing satisfactory services, too expensive, or there aren't enough psych resources, and also there must be more people who have mental health issues than you'd think there are.)

Between the last post and this one, one of the aunts I'm closer to, also checked in on me and told me I could talk to her if I ever needed or wanted to, as well as my real dad. My dad asked if I was still seeing a therapist, and whether I paid for it myself.

On Monday night, around midnight, my mother texted me that she loved me, so I texted her back that I loved her too. And then, I'm not sure how or why it transpired, I don't know if someone else had clued her in to my dispositions, or she just felt like it, but at 1.14am, she said "please forgive me if i haven't been a good mother" and I started bawling insanely, just by myself in my own room.

It reminded me of some pages I'd read in Educated: A Memoir (because of course I am one of the biggest perusers of books I know of in person).
There was a pause, then more words appeared—words I hadn't known I needed to hear, but once I saw them, I realized I'd been searching my whole life for them.

You were my child. I should have protected you.

I lived a lifetime in the moment I read those lines, a life that was not the one I had actually lived. I became a different person, who remembered a different childhood. I didn't understand the magic of those words then, and I don't understand it now. I know only this: that when my mother told me that she had not been the mother to me that she wished she'd been, she became that mother for the first time.
The thing is, I haven't actually had the time nor chance to see nor talk to my mom since that text, so I don't know what the text meant for the both of us. From the anecdote above, I also know that sometimes words are spoken but nothing changes, so I honestly don't know what it will entail. I want to believe it's a major breakthrough, and I hope it is, I hope perhaps that she and I could even go to some therapy sessions together.

That night, while sobbing, I told Adam what my mom had said, and also that there was a major blackout that affected a few neighbourhoods in Singapore. It was a strange night, because power outages rarely ever happen, and it was the night my mother apologised to me. I felt very out of sorts, and this was the conversation that followed (after he had given me some proper advice on how to navigate the situation with my mom).
Sarah: Omg help how does one stop crying i have forgotten

Adam: Imagine a big penis
Adam: That's my advice for most situations

Sarah: What if the situation is to forget big penises?

Adam: Imagine a big vagina
Adam: Like comically large

Sarah: Ew

Adam: You could walk inside and warm up

Sarah: Hahahahhaahhahah ew

Adam: Is this helping

Sarah: Yes i guess ergh
Sarah: Thank you for being a friend

Adam: Travel down the road and back again
Adam: Yr heart is true
Adam: Yr a pal and a confidant

Sarah: I'm sorry i don't think i know the reference

Adam: Golden girls
Adam: Theme song

Sarah: Ah damn i wish we'd had that, the gifs are always so good
Sarah: I will now know you as an old, sexy grandma

Adam: This is accurate

Sarah: I'm amazed
Sarah: I was under the impression you had a -how did you put it- big penis
Sarah: I scrolled up to see if you said big or large lol

Adam: I didn't say imagine my penis
Adam: Though i have a nice penis
Adam: Anyway I have sexy grandma energy
Adam: Plus the penis

Sarah: Perhaps the penis helped contribute to SGE

Adam: The golden girls definitely have big dick energy

Sarah: I think one of the things i read did place all of them as having it so
Sarah: Did you write that

Adam: No

Sarah: Strangely enough by some measure of Providence the entire street of blocks of apartments have lost power and i can hear the rest of my family discussing it in the living room while im trying to breathe normally in my room
Sarah: I mean, this never happens but then tonight my mother apologises and voila

Adam: What my big dick
Adam: Oh
Adam: Damn it's late

Sarah: What the heck was "what my big dick" even in response to

Adam: You said they were "discussing it"
Adam: And we were talking about penises and BDE and SGE
Adam: Just a little goof

Sarah: I said they were discussing the outage, i distinctly referred to it in the clause directly before
Sarah: I know you know
Sarah: Why do i even bother
Sarah: You just troll me anyway

Adam: Because I'm so fun

Sarah: You're not fun, not as i know you anyway, but you have deffo been a good friend

Adam: I'm not fun?!?!?

Sarah: No lol

Adam: Wtf

Sarah: You're like.... "dont do coke i just did it and i wanna cry oh wait i did cry dont ever do it"

Adam: Yes that's true
Adam: Coke is not fun lol

Sarah: Not what everyone says

Adam: Were I doing coke then I would be not fun
Adam: You don't even know
Adam: Ugh

Sarah: Well if you were fun you'd let me try it to know for myself, but you act like my mom, deciding for me

Adam: I'm offering my advice
Adam: I'm not stopping you lol

Sarah: I did say you're a good friend

Adam: SMALL CONSOLATION

Sarah: I ONLY CALL PEOPLE I LOVE MY GOOD FRIENDS

Adam: Aw
Adam: Kiki
Adam: Do u love me
Adam: Would you poopee

Sarah: I heard that was a diss track
Sarah: ???

Adam: Would u peepee
Adam: Idk
Adam: Idc
Adam: Drake sucks ass

Sarah: Whose tho
Sarah: Is the question

Adam: Some 18 year olds

Sarah: Ok

Adam: That isn't a lie
Adam: He's dating a child

Sarah: Never said it was

Adam: He stinks

Sarah: Why? Like his music you mean? Okay don't listen to him and don't quote his songs anymore
Sarah: Solved

Adam: Culture insists I have an opinion on him

Sarah: You have culture? The white man who insists on calling girls "my dude"?
Sarah: S c o f f

Adam: I'm saying the culture at large
Adam: Insists I have an opinion on Drake by shoving him in my face and earholes all the time

Sarah: Your earholes that you have your headphones on and choose what they get to listen to

Adam: Not if I'm like
Adam: Just outside
Adam: And a car passes by
Adam: Or I'm in a pharmacy
Adam: And I have to hear KIKI
Adam: DO U LOVE ME
Adam: WILL U SUCK ME
Adam: or whatever

Sarah: I guess
Sarah: I'll let you win this one
Sarah: Because you're a white boy not accustomed to losing

Adam: Boooooo

Sarah: I literally just let you win?????

Adam: And were like "but yr White so hmph"
Adam: So now I feel bad
Adam: For being right

Sarah: Oh I'm sorry, master coloniser superior to all other races, what would you have me say instead?

Adam: Not bring it up in a conversation where it's completely irrelevant lol
Adam: You can call me master tho
Adam: ;)

Sarah: Oh damn are you... touchy about my white jokes? Also.... you always bring up humor where its completely irrelevant but of course when the irrelevant topic is your white race, it's touchy and cant be done
Sarah: Womp womp
Sarah: I lose at this

Adam: I tease
Adam: U can give it to me all u want I can take it
Adam: You know what sucks

Sarah: What now, did someone blast Drake

Adam: I really enjoy talking to you whenever we do and then I remember there's a good chance we'll never meet irl

Sarah: What sucks about that?

Adam: Is it... not obvious?

Sarah: I'm really? Not sure??

Adam: Wot u thick m8
Adam: Touched in the head innit?

Sarah: What even, see, suddenly you're bringing in british humor and i'm like, where did that come from

Adam: Lol
Adam: I wanna hang irl!!!!

Sarah: Whatever for! Istg im not this cool (ahahahahahahHhahaha im not even cool in text) irl

Adam: Cuz I like talking to you you idiot

Sarah: Well good because we're friends!

Adam: Yeah and friends hang out like
Adam: Sometimes

Sarah: Iirc you don't even live close to your best friends irl

Adam: I don't and that sucks too

Sarah: *pats your hair
Sarah: There, there
Sarah: Life sucks and then you die

Adam: Lmao
Adam: Idk I appreciate our convos is all I'm saying

Sarah: I also said i love you lol so i guess that also means tt i appreciate our convos thx m8

Adam: And it makes me sad we can't be together sometimes

Sarah: Same

Adam: So don't be thick with me m8
Adam: U get it too

Sarah: Whenever i think i'm sad then i think you said we wouldn't even be a good couple irl
Sarah: Then i'm like fine, he's right
Sarah: He's white, must be right ;)

Adam: Lmao
Adam: I think I said that cuz we were both sobbing constantly about each other at the time

Sarah: No wait my hand to a Bible (idk why, i neither believe in God nor care about a Bible) i'm sure when you said it, like a couple of months afterwards you really had some arguments there lol
Sarah: Like you were not crying

Adam: Well
Adam: Whatever
Adam: Idk I like what we have now as an online friendship
Adam: Cuz before things were gettin way too heavy and frustrating
Adam: But it does make me sad sometimes that we get along real good and can't hang

Sarah: Samesies

Adam: So there

Sarah: Here?

Adam: I value and appreciate u, don't die

Sarah: Omg
Sarah: That had better not be an elaborate ploy to get me to stay alive

Adam: Christ lol

Sarah: Tbh i have mental health issues i tend to have weird suspicions
Sarah: Don't Christ lol me

Adam: I'll christ lol u all night long gurl

Sarah: It's so weird
Sarah: It's been a year and i haven't found anyone i like as much as you
Sarah: Mental, this

Adam: Proper shite

Sarah: Bollocks

Adam: Bloody 'ell harry

Sarah: Yer a wizard!
Sarah: Also if it's 'ell, it's 'arry! Bloody hell adam

Adam: Sorry I'm not as familiar with the English as u

Sarah: Oh yeah i'm sorry i forgot you're more familiar with the Japanese
A summary: A year ago, it was the Lush staff party, and I told Adam I loved him for the first time, and he said it back, and tonight was the staff party again, and lo and behold, I somehow still love him. I like him very much as a person and friend, and the chemistry between us is so easy, it's stupid. I like that he's attuned to his feelings for a white man his age (one year younger than I am, a fact he's stupidly fond of, for some reason).

A year ago, we were both still coming to terms with ourselves, I think I was still in denial about the gravity of the shite I'd gotten myself into, and he was still reeling from his break-up with his hafu Japanese ex of three years (can you hear my saltiness? ahahahahaha I dunno why, I'm sure she's lovely, I don't even know her --- oh wait she broke up with him close to his birthday, who does that? also she's reallllly pretty, good on her lololol may I just remind myself that dating is not a competition).

I have half a mind to spend my last vacation weeks of the year in New York City and like, suss out the city that I think I want to live in, and finally meet Adam properly, not just by video call or whatever, but like, what if we both really fall in love with each other? And then what?

Friday, September 14, 2018

THE HUMAN CONDITION

On a very bad night, after I am done crying, I write letters. I tell my grandma I no longer believe in a god, or heaven or hell, so she does not have to worry, I will not be in pain or suffering nor face any punishment. All I will be is gone. I tell my sister she can have my meagre worldly possessions, and I hope she appreciates the number of inside jokes I have included. I hope she remembers me by my jokes and all the things I did to make them laugh, even though I know she would be very angry at the onset. I write letters to tell everyone that nobody is to blame. My mother is not to blame. My father is not to blame. None of the men I have ever dated is to blame. Nobody is at fault. My brain is not wired the same way, that is all. It is so strange that for the only things in the universe that can try to make any sense of the universe, sometimes brains themselves just make very little sense. I have tried, and I can make not much sense of why my brain does this. Logically and factually, I know that I have nothing to be depressed about. I am an attractive person, people are always telling me to be a model or a flight attendant or one of those things. I also have brains, I use them most of the time, I have the capacity to change my life, day by day. I am also the person who throws her head back and laughs fully, I let things slide at work, I am witty and naughty and I tease and am able to play. But sometimes, it doesn't want to. Sometimes, when it's at its lowest, all it feels is that regardless how many people are next to me, or holding me, they will never be able to alleviate the dread I feel, the pointlessness of it all. I am scared of becoming Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf, writing often of their depression and simply dragging it on until one day they gather enough courage to end. I write and write and I hope that this pain doesn't spill over, I hope everyone who's directly related to me in my life doesn't think, oh it was something I missed, we should have done something more --- there was nothing to be caught. We all know I have depression, and nobody could have done anything more. I hope my best friends and all my loved ones forgive me, and forgive themselves, for everything. If there is one thing my words could do, I hope it is to convince everyone that I have always loved them, but sometimes I honestly can't say any of this is worth it. This is what I feel on my worst nights.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

YELLOW FLICKER BEAT

I'll say it again, I don't date white guys only because they're white, but because they tend to be the lesser of two evils, in my opinion. They're not Singaporean/Asian, the kind of men who think they own women. I see the ones whom my family members and friends are dating, the men who don't quite like their girlfriends wearing this outfit, or going to that club at night, the ones who think they have a say in a woman's life under the pretext of caring for the ladies. Of course, this happens because the women themselves allow it to happen, because our parents have all taught us that women must defer to men, and it is natural to defer to a man's opinion, and to cater to his happiness. So no, I will not date Asian men, especially Asian men who are so insecure they have to make snide remarks about Asian girls dating white men. I am not here to please you, nobody owns me, my mother does not own my body, and I will not allow you to own me.

A couple weeks ago, or whenever it was before Jon left for the States, he asked "why do you like me?" and this was because we both knew we didn't want the same things, and he could be very mean to me, so what he left unsaid was, "why do you like me despite my making myself dislikeable to you?" I asked him, "why don't you like me?" and what was left unsaid was, "why don't you like me, despite my being incredibly witty, funny, sweet, and making myself likeable to you?" I hadn't thought of it at the time, but it wasn't the first time I was asking such a question. I'd asked many other men before him, the same thing, in different ways and forms, and I realise those weren't even the first times, they were all echoes of my trying to win my parents' approval, which I never earned, despite my sincerest, deepest efforts to. I cannot find love from anyone else, if I cannot love myself the way I am.


After I'd been meeting with Professor Steinberg for a month, I wrote an essay comparing Edmund Burke with Publius, the persona under which James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay had written The Federalist Papers. I barely slept for two weeks: every moment my eyes were open, I was either reading or thinking about those texts.

From my father I had learned that books were to be either adored or exiled. Books that were of God — books written by the Mormon prophets or the Founding Fathers — were not to be studied so much as cherished, like a thing perfect in itself. I had been taught to read the words of men like Madison as a cast into which I ought to pour the plaster of my own mind, to be reshaped according to the contours of their faultless model. I read them to learn what to think, not how to think for myself. Books that were not of God were banished; they were a danger, powerful and irresistible in their cunning.

To write my essay I had to read books differently, without giving myself over to either fear or adoration. Because Burke had defended the British monarchy, Dad would have said he was an agent of tyranny. He wouldn't have wanted the book in the house. There was a thrill in trusting myself to read the words. I felt a similar thrill in reading Madison, Hamilton and Jay, especially on those occasions when I discarded their conclusions in favor of Burke's, or when it seemed to me that their ideas were not really different in substance, only in form. There were wonderful suppositions embedded in this method of reading: that books are not tricks, and that I was not feeble.

I finished the essay and sent it to Professor Steinberg. Two days later, when I arrived for our next meeting, he was subdued. He peered at me from across the table. I waited for him to say the essay was a disaster, the product of an ignorant mind, that it had overreached, drawn too many conclusions from too little material.

"I have been teaching in Cambridge for thirty years," he said. "And this is one of the best essays I've read."

I was prepared for insults but I was not prepared for this.

Professor Steinberg must have said something more about the essay but I heard nothing. My mind was consumed with a wrenching need to get out of that room. In that moment I was no longer in a clock tower in Cambridge. I was seventeen, in a red jeep, and a boy I loved had just touched my hand. I bolted.

I could tolerate any form of cruelty better than kindness. Praise was a poison to me; I choked on it. I wanted the professor to shout at me, wanted it so deeply I felt dizzy from the deprivation. The ugliness of me had to be given expression. If it was not expressed in his voice, I would need to express it in mine.

I don't remember leaving the clock tower, or how I passed the afternoon. That evening there was a black-tie dinner. The hall was lit by candlelight, which was beautiful, but it cheered me for another reason: I wasn't wearing formal clothing, just a black shirt and black pants, and I thought people might not notice in the dim lighting. My friend Laura arrived late. She explained that her parents had visited and taken her to France. She had only just returned. She was wearing a dress of rich purple with crisp pleats in the skirt. The hemline bounced several inches above her knee, and for a moment I thought the dress was whorish, until she said her father had bought it for her in Paris. A gift from one's father could not be whorish. A gift from one's father seemed to me the definitive signal that a woman was not a whore. I struggled with this dissonance — a whorish dress, gifted to a loved daughter — until the meal had been finished and the plates cleared away.
I've been reading Educated: A Memoir for the past few days. It's a factual memoir written by a lady who was raised in Midwest North America, in a Mormon family, by a father who had bipolar disorder.

The writer and her siblings were not allowed to go to school, for her father's fear that it was brainwashing from the Government. They also never went to the hospital, and never took pills, because "if you believe in doctors, you believe in the devil and not God's work", etc.

Although my family is not such an extreme case, I do recall the resistance that my mother would have towards medicine and painkillers, with the explanation being that it would take years to flush out of our bodies, making me inherently suspicious of painkillers, until only very recently, because of course a parent's suspicions tend to also become their children's.

I know not many people are born wealthy, but I'm guessing everybody sometimes wishes they could be really well-off. Or is it just me? Sometimes I really wish I were a legacy kid. That I could have had a clear and encouraged path to academia, in Harvard or Oxford or wherever my parents went to. That I didn't have to worry about money or health or living in the same room as my parents and siblings during my childhood, that I could have pursued whatever I wanted to. I wish that I were in an alternate universe, where nobody judges me for wanting to study when I clearly can't afford to, or wanting to study for the sake of studying, which I know is frivolous and impractical. I wish I were so rich that nobody thinks I'm a sellout for enjoying the act of studying, of reading and writing essays, and using my brain's capacity for synapses in learning to code, or being an activist on gender and race studies, or I dunno, just doing creative writing the formal-conventional-university way, instead of struggling with my physical tiredness in an industry I do not enjoy. Sometimes I hate saying such things here, because I know it sounds like I'm whiny, but this is my space, and I'm allowed to feel and say what I want. I'm not asking anyone to sponsor me, I just wish things were different, a lot of the time. I wish that I were challenging my brain to make a difference in an avenue I could be useful to, instead of remembering the thousands of details I know about men I've met. I mean, my memory could be so useful, my best friend depends on me to remember tiny details from our shared past, or to navigate in foreign situations that we've only been in once, and all I use it for, is men. Men, who appear, and leave. I wish Rick and Morty were real, so I could travel to an alternate universe.




For the next couple of days, my workplace @lushvivocity is holding a contest in which you choose your favorite perfume from Lush and write or draw how it makes you feel. You stand to win a bottle of it! We contributed our submissions (although nope, I can't win - but if you have the time, I totes recommend that you pop by our store and enter!) and because I am not the most artistically-inclined of people, I wrote about 1000 Kisses Deep: "this reminds me of my favorite memory in my life so far, my happiest and the prettiest picture I can paint in my mind. I am watching the sun set in a pink sky, over calm waters on RAT Beach in California. even though the place and its people eventually brought me to depression, there is a love I will always have for Cali, that lies deep beneath the turmoil, and I think it is the kind of love that is a thousand kisses deep and cannot be shaken." #lush #lushsg #gorillaperfume #1000kissesdeep #love #rightaftertorrance
A post shared by Sarah Mei Lyana (@sarahmeilyana) on

On a lighter note, I was in Bangkok with my family for four days, and my mom still apparently does not know about my tattoo. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

MANTRA

There is a lot that I have to unlearn in order to learn new behaviors and patterns, and I try. The good thing is I do try, and I will try.

Not a single ounce of my value depends on how I attract others. I am not a thing made for other people's consumption. My worth isn't dependent on how many dates I get. Choosing to stay single rather than intentionally pursuing partners who are toxic, emotionally unavailable or just straight up wrong for me is a good thing. Know my worth. Take my time until it feels right. Savor getting to know myself and fall in love with That person.

Read. Rinse. Repeat. Read. Rinse. Repeat.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

WUT

My family is at the airport now. My parents, sisters and I are waiting to board our flight to Bangkok while the younger sisters are having a week-long holiday from school. The last time I was here at the airport, it was quite a trip. I don't talk much about weird messy situations bc like, wtf, but my life has many of such moments, of puzzle pieces that don't fit, of the strange and the out-of-ordinary. So the night I'd gotten my tattoo, I went over to Jon's place to help him pack, 'cos he's moving to a new apartment and he was leaving the next morning for his trip to Boston. The next morning, I realised I had time before work so I got into the car he'd booked, and told him I'd spend some time at the airport with him. He then said he wasn't comfortable with me sending him off, 'cos he had work to finish, he gets anxious before travelling, etc, but I knew he was clearly hiding something. Eventually he admitted another girl would be sending him off at the airport, so then we both got flustered. We weren't dating exclusively, but I'd just spent the night packing his goddamn apartment with him and he wouldn't even tell me the truth. Throughout the ride we realised the depth of his non-commital issues, and then because I am me, I asked our driver whether he had ever heard of anything more absurd happening in his car, and the driver said no. When we got to the airport, Jon thought I left him at the curb but I'd just gotten my tattoo, and I realised fuck this shit, time to start a fire, so when he was checking in at the counter and the girl was waiting off at the side, I had bags of plastic from his place that I'd intended to recycle, I dropped them off in front of him at the counter and made the most dramatic exit I could, storming off. After he had checked himself in, Jon laughed gleefully in text, and said "that was way shady" and up till now, I'm so drawn to him even though he's not looking for someone to date exclusively, probably because thanks to my daddy issues, I only fall for emotionally unavailable men. Last night, I chatted with him again and we realised besides his issues of not wanting to commit and actively not seeking therapy, he also didn't like that I'm so intense, which made me think, maybe this intensity of mine that I'm so comfortable with, is a defence mechanism that drives people away and keeps them at bay. In any case, last week I had a date with Luca, who is the sweetest, but clearly I have very bad issues about needing unhealthy drama that I attract all of it. Somehow we happened to sit in the restaurant, at a table right next to Julien, a French guy I used to date (if you searched for it I think you could find a post of him showing me stars), and I was sitting facing Luca, who was seated adjacent to Julien, so I was looking at both of them. I said hi to Julien, and then proceeded to have a riveting conversation with Luca about how reverse racism Does Not Exist, because I inherently needed to prove that I was a better conversationalist than Julien's date. Luca and I laughed and enjoyed ourselves but truly, my life is a mess because I am a mess because I subconsciously feel like I don't deserve happiness and TOO LONG; DIDN'T READ --- I NEED THERAPY

Friday, August 31, 2018

STRAIGHT-LACED

I got a Kindle while I was in Beijing, and I've been reading much more than I did, prior to getting it. I finished reading The Hate U Give, which is set to be released as a motion picture, I'm very excited for! It is a sad story, based on very real events, about a black girl who sees her black friend being shot by a white police officer, and all the politics that happen after it. You know you see it in the news so often, but as a non-black person, usually like it affects you momentarily and then you forget about it and you're able to shut it out. Reading it as a novel, though, you really sort of immerse yourself into the feelings of a person who is living the experience, who can't escape the life they have been born into, and it's so sad, I teared every couple of chapters -- although, might not be the most accurate of benchmarks, I am very easily moved to tears. It's also written well, that despite the heaviness of the themes, I learned a lot about her specific black culture in her black neighbourhood, the pop-cultural references they make, her having to navigate being one of the only black students in a posh white school, especially given that she lives in a "ghetto". I honestly empathised with the black people she knew who fell into crime and drug-dealing, who did it because they had to, to save someone else they loved, etc. I would write an actual review, but I have no time at the moment. I currently just downloaded Educated: A Memoir and it starts off with a quote.
The past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, & thus we don't have complete emotions about the present, only about the past. 
— Virginia Woolf
I don't quite know what the book is about yet, but I think I'll enjoy it. It's been a very good week, I've been quite busy at work, but also doing things for myself. My colleagues have nothing but praise for my tattoo, so yay. My mother does not know of it yet, so things are still civil at home. This weekend is the first anniversary of Lush Vivocity, so it's been a year of monthly overnight stock shipments and inventories, of training sessions at 8am on Sunday mornings, of learning to care more about people and animals and the environment, of me writing captions for @lushvivocity on Instagram (I always make a disclaimer that I don't write them all the time -- depending on my shifts, so if you see a pun, it may be mine, but it may also not be). We're having a pretty special weekend ahead, with compounding sessions for bath bombs and bubble bars. I think I will have a busier year-end period ahead, 'cos of the Lush Singapore staff party, and then I'm also involved in the Christmas showcase, and Christmas at Lush is a huge deal. I really actually like Lush a lot, and given that you can find Lush in many different parts of the world, I'm hoping it's my way out of here. So far, I've been looking at North America, but we'll see where things take me.

I think it has been a long time coming, but I finally see where I am, where I can be, and am happy with it. I learned a lot of my triggers for anxiety and depression in the past two years. First it used to be my periods, because blood would make me think of the miscarriage. Then it would be delayed periods, because obviously one time, when I didn't get my period, it was because I was pregnant. Then it was falling sick, because when I met the man who got me pregnant, it was when I had just gotten better from being really ill. Then it was sex, because clearly you can only get pregnant if you're having sex (here is a life lesson for all you kiddos: pulling out is not protection! if you're a girl and you don't want to get pregnant, please be smart enough to either be on birth control, and if you're not because you grew up in a weird sex-taboo environment like I did, be sure that your partner is wearing a condom! good luck!) and I kept learning and learning, that a lot of situations had the potential to spin me out of control. But now it's been almost two years to the day I left LA (we're seven days away from it), and I think I have learned and know enough. Enough to realise that some things are triggers, and I have the ability to either be triggered by it, or compartmentalise it as a thing that happened once because I wasn't aware, but then put it aside.

I subscribed to the New York Times crossword, but a lot of it is American-contextualised, so I'm not very efficient at doing it yet, though I do think I'll get better. We all get better from somewhere.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

NEVER ENOUGH

(tattoo by: @maxinengps) There is a sunflower on my spine, whose stalk is a quote from my favorite musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda's @hamiltonmusical, in the song That Would Be Enough. Sunflowers are the only flowers I really like, I'm not much of a flower person. I like sunflowers because they grow tall and towards the sun, drawn to warmth and brightness. I'd like to think I relate to that a lot. The quote is "the fact that you're alive is a miracle", because as was the case for A. Ham, there were certain points in life that pushed me down, kicked me into the ground, and I would feel it easier to give up and end my life, but instead, I just kept on keeping on. The decision to have a tattoo is not an easy one for me, my family is religiously and culturally Muslim and disapprove of tattoos, to put it very mildly. To them, tattoos mean that a person's skin is perpetually stained, unable to be "cleaned" by ablution and that person is thus unable to perform their five daily prayers. I don't understand instructions with little basis I can identify with. I am a very honest person, I never cheat nor steal, I don't sexually harass anyone, I accompany my grandma to the market for grocery-shopping, I care for animals and the environment, and if a god exists and that god judges me for my skin instead of the intentions within my heart, I don't think I'd want to respect such a figure, anyway, let alone pray to one. I can be good without god, and I am. I also love that this tattoo is as permanent as my body, and as temporary as my life. This life is mine, and so is this body. More words on sarahnadetheworld.com. #tattoo #ink #spine #sunflower #love #life #hamilton
A post shared by Sarah Mei Lyana (@sarahmeilyana) on

all the shine of a thousand spotlights

all the stars we steal from the night sky
will never be enough
never be enough

towers of gold are still too little
these hands could hold the world
but it will never be enough
never be enough


Jenny Lind, who was born in 1820, was an illegitimate child, and she was semi-fictionalised for The Greatest Showman, but she was someone who actually lived, and historically, she really was born out of wedlock. Two hundred years ago, it was something shamed upon and two hundred years later, it still is something shameful in my community, and two hundred years from now, it will still be the same, unless something changes in between. I have lived 28 years, and in 28 years, my mother still lives with the guilt, and she has not forgiven herself, which is something I have carried within me ever since I learned it was something contextually bad, at maybe six, or seven or eight, whenever it was that I found out. In the Muslim community, women are encouraged to veil themselves, and the partial basis of this is actually a positive thing. When you are veiled, it takes away the realm of superficiality, and incentivises people to look beyond your clothes, that everyone is similar when you're not just looking skin deep, and it forces you to judge people based on their characters and personalities, not just how they look. People being people, this got bastardised, and the Muslim community are just about as superficial and judgmental as everyone else. Suddenly, the veil and having tattoo-free skin were the only obvious marks of being good people. Muslim women are not allowed to paint their nails, as it prevents ablution and prayer, so if you see tutorials by Muslim women, if they happen to show a bit of hair, or are wearing nail polish, you can bet your bottom dollar, there will be comment feuds about these things. Zayn Malik, who has tattoos on his skin, has similar comments on his Instagram, which highlights only one thing, instead of the non-Muslim community being judgmental towards Muslims, it has just become about Muslims being judgmental within themselves. It doesn't matter that Zayn is a philanthropist and could donate millions of dollars of his earnings, the one thing people will be fighting about are his tattoos. I have a major problem with traditional Muslims and other religious people believing in such rigid codes supposedly set by their divine being/s. If you believe the god you have complete faith in will judge someone based on whether they have tattoos, or whether they were born to a set of married parents, whether you are conscious of it, you will tend to have double, triple, quadruple standards in dealing with people. I watched a local Malay drama recently, in which this lady was evaluating whether a Malay man would be deemed suitable of receiving funds from community aid or something like that, she thought he had tattoos and was apprehensive of him, until they found out it was temporary henna and his sister had just been practising on him, after which the social worker instantly softened towards him. I was so irked by that, as if if he'd had real tattoos, it instantly meant that he wasn't a good, honest and hardworking person. These are still the values being perpetuated in Malay drama serials, these are the things that my family members still think. When I talk to my friends and colleagues, I know in Singaporean society, a majority of the older generation are still not accepting of tattoos. I tell them about how long I've been thinking of getting a tattoo, and I tell them that my family will look upon me differently, and my peers who already have tattoos always seem a fraction colder towards me. I know they know that I don't judge them differently based on what they want to do to their own skin. Yet, every time I talk about how difficult it is for me, I know it seems like I am just like my family with their old values, that I would still judge someone based on the superficial, instead of the facts that they are the most motivated people at work, the bravest with their businesses, the kindest and most accepting with their hearts. I know there will be conservative people who will look at me with my tattoo after this, and think my mother has failed in raising me, and if you are one of them, I would like to assure you, my mother has done no such thing. She is now a staunch Muslim, she is very hard on us when we are not, and she has done nothing to let me know that she would accept me with a tattoo. However, based on the fact that I am the illegitimate child, I will never be enough for my mother. I have been pretty much depressed on and off for the past two years, because of my miscarriage, and despite living in the same apartment, under the same roof, my mother has not acknowledged my condition, no matter how many nights I spend crying myself to sleep. I live in a family and community that would rather impart their own beliefs and worldviews to their children, instead of validating their children's individual mindsets. This is why I think a lot of people shouldn't have kids, if you think that the kid will always remain a kid and not become a person of their own, and if you will disregard your kid if they believe different things. This is also why I want to move out of Singapore. Singapore is not the most liberal of societies, that's true, but a lot of people in my generation have come to terms with it, because they have individual freedoms within their family units, and I don't. I don't have the freedom to wear what I want, to do what I want with my body, to stay out whenever I want with my own time, so I conflate the lack of freedom in Singapore, and the lack of freedom from my mother, and I think, I need to be at the first place I grew up learning was a place of freedom: the US. I am not happy here. This is also why I look for love from man after man after man, because I have never felt enough here, I don't feel like I belong and I have never felt enough for myself. I want to be somewhere else, where I can feel enough just as the person I am. I'm not saying my mother doesn't love me, but if she had the choice to only have conceived me after marriage, she would choose it every time. My mother is disappointed in herself, so I know the choices I make with my body will always disappoint my mother, but I would like to accept myself for my choices in life, I want to know that I own my body and I can do what I feel is right for me, and I am enough for me.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

VPN

I'm back in Singapore, where the air is fresh and clean, or at least relatively more so, as compared to that of Beijing. Also, despite having very limited freedoms of speech about our government, we still have access to the Internet that the rest of the world has, without having to tap onto VPNs, so there's also that. Thanks for not sucking that much, Singapore. Thanks for not being worse.

Here are some memories in the form of photos.





It was actually a very good week.

I learned many things and experienced also many things, but one thing stuck with me. While walking on the Great Wall, there were many people from many different places who were all cheering each other on. Many of them also said I had on a beautiful dress, because I'd chosen to wear an Indian ethnic outfit (bc why not?).

Making our way down though, we chose to take the ski lift, the ones that are basically a bench with a flimsy metal bar over your legs. My cousin took one with her mum, because one lift only holds two people, and I sat on another one alone. On the way down, I knew it was relatively safe because it was at the Great Wall of China, a tourist attraction that millions of people have already been to, but still, I was dangling over perhaps a couple hundred feet of air, then forest, then the ground. I saw people who were taking the ski lift up, and most of them were in twos.

I know that having someone beside you doesn't make it any safer, but I'm guessing it would have felt a little better. You'd probably be joking about something or another, or sharing the moment with an anecdote, and then you'd forget that what you're doing is a risk to your safety. I thought it might be the same with life, which to me is confusing and overwhelming and unpredictable, and even if having a partner doesn't reduce the actual risk of going through its twists and turns, perhaps it might help it all go down smoother and better.

I watched The Greatest Showman for the first time today, on the airline's in-flight entertainment system. I was somehow sobbing at one of the scenes, and my face was really contorted and I was gasping for air, because I thought I was like, just watching a show, right? But then this flight attendant caught me, and she laughed and I laughed while crying and gasping, and she handed me a napkin, and I felt so great about that interaction.

I met a guy last week in Beijing, he said I write really well, and he joked that he had turned into a fanboy of my writing. I know a couple of men in Beijing, one in Germany, one in Paris, a couple in Brooklyn, a few more in California, very likely several in Singapore, someone in New Zealand, a person in Australia, and they all care for me to some extent. Given the public nature of my writing, they all monitor me to some degree and check in with me when they feel the need to. None of them cares the way I would like to be cared for, I'm so tired of things being transitionary. I want someone who wants to be on the ski lift with me, or on a boring bus ride home, or I don't know, someone who cares and invests themselves just as much as I do.

It was a good week. Beijing was good to me.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE

This week, I tried not to talk to Adam, but then he was repressed to my subconscious so much I dreamt of him, so I spent all of this morning chatting with him. I love him. As a friend, or more, I dunno, but I love that I can talk to him. I told him about my self-destructive behavior last week, and he is the only person who knows the full extent of it. He didn't even judge me for it. If my therapist knew what I'd done/I'm doing, I'm pretty sure there would be a bit of a stop put to it, even though therapists are technically not supposed to stop you from doing anything per se. I don't even know the full legality of what I'm doing. I sound like I sell weapons on the deep/dark web, which clearly I don't, but Jesus Christ I never thought I'd be here. I love Adam, and I'm so comfortable with him, just letting him know what I do and how I feel, and feeling happier that he's there to listen, and know that I'm valid. He's in a good place in life, and he says he's stopped drinking again (he should never be drinking bc it messes up his antidepressant meds!!!! But I'm not here to judge). I think I'm good too, like it makes me happy to know Adam is happy, etc. I'm gonna chill and take life as it goes. Today I'm glad I got to talk to Adam, even if I am intellectually and physically so fucking attracted to him and we can't be with each other. Life is okay. I think we have a very strangely balanced friendship because I was raised in a religious background so everything is a miracle etc, whereas Adam writes for Know Your Meme. Can you imagine? The man writes about memes, which some say is the ruin of our generation. Nothing is sacred to him. He teaches me to troll, and I am glad to have him teach me to just be comfortable and have fun. Today my college sweetheart of three years, my first real love, got married. It's nice, I'm super happy for him.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

AMBITION IS MY FOLLY


Today I watched this video again. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to Cherru about swinging from a rope into a creek, which she's never done, so I showed her the time I'd done so, somewhere in Lake Tahoe. I find it incredibly sad that we don't even have creeks to swing into, in Singapore. If we tied a rope somewhere near a reservoir, we'd probably get arrested or fined and it would be removed pretty much immediately. My newer colleagues sometimes ask to see how the guy looks, whenever they find out I was pregnant for a short while, once upon a time. I don't know why they want to know, he's a white guy, and that's pretty much all you need to know. :P

But you get to see him if you want to, he's the white guy with dark hair (the one who's driving, lol), and a decent good-boy face, because that's actually legitimately the kind of look I like, I think. I like white guys with dark hair and good-boy faces. Why do I like white guys? I don't know, I'm just attracted to them, why don't you ask all the ones I've been out with, why they like Asian girls? Who knows, who cares, it may or may not have racial or political motivations, it may just be base desire, it happens. Today I saw us racing in Mulholland Highway canyons again, in the video, and I remember feeling contentment. I remember feeling contented very often on that trip of two months. I saw the Perseid meteor shower from Lake Tahoe, and I climbed Mount Freel, and I went to SpaceX (no photos bc they're private af), and I got to sit shotgun while a guy raced pretty much all through Cali, and I stayed in a house that might have been haunted, and with a musician and walked his neighbour's dog, and I had no money but all the freedom.

There are certain things I remember with no effort. I remember his nasal laugh, I remember when we were at Venice Beach with some people we'd just met at a house party, and some random guy we'd just been introduced to asked him what his plans for life were. He said "oh, you know, just do my time, cash out, get a wife, then move out somewhere cheaper" and it has stayed with me all this time, because the way he said "get a wife" honestly amazed me. To me, I think the heart is a muscle that needs to be exercised, and I don't mean it literally, I know our feelings and emotions don't literally emanate from that physical muscle we call a heart, but I mean in terms of love. Maybe it's just me and my rough upbringing that makes me feel like I need to learn how to love, I need practice, with different people, in different relationships, and I need to practise commitment, etc.

He said "get a wife" like you could pick one out at a supermarket and it was guaranteed they would love you back, and things would work out, and the commitment would last, because both people would be able to commit. I'm not bringing this up in terms of this man per se, I just wonder whether people do have this mindset of basically settling down when you're ready and it would work out. Or I wonder if it is somewhere in the back of these people's minds that it's a Stepford Wife/trophy wife situation, in which case you marry for the sake of a household, but then both parties would eventually seek out other partners to fulfill their own desires, outside of their marriage. Is that what happens? I dunno, ever since I was called naive, I just wonder whether everything I believe is a sham and doesn't actually happen, lol.

I miss the US. I just want to go everywhere, do everything again, as opposed to being in this tiny island country of 719 sq km, where there is nowhere to go, and you can't do anything. Forget drugs like marijuana (for which there is the death penalty --- oh yes, the UN human rights groups aren't particularly fond of us for any reason), you can't even buy chewing gum here, because we're not trusted to dispose of it properly. Why, how did I get born in this city state? How?

I wanna take a break and read all the books I own, and finally write my own.
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you. 
— Charles Bukowski

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

NUYORICAN

I spent the last ten minutes reading about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and I believe I might have found my new favorite New Yorker/Puerto Rican, unseating Lin-Manuel Miranda only by a little, because of course she is female and by default she has had to work harder to get where she is. I love that according to most media coverage, her win was pretty much the biggest recent political upset because she was obviously the underdog, having spent a ratio of 1:18 to Joe Crowley's campaigns. Her political stances give me hope that there is a point to rocking the boat, and that the tides are turning. We'll see, but till then, imma still look to Lin's daily good morning and good night Tweets to lift my spirits. I had a brilliant, brilliant day today, the people I work with truly bring light, love and laughter into my life, even if the retail work itself does not inspire me on a minute or even hourly basis. I hope Demi Lovato is strong enough to get through what she is going through. Today I thought about the Central Provident Fund. This is the mandatory "savings" fund in Singapore, that takes away 20% of your monthly income. This money cannot be removed as cash or used for anything apart from HDB flats/housing, a housing board which belongs to the government, and the average prices of HDB apartments are around Singapore Dollar $330,000 for a 120 sq-metre apartment, and of course private housing is even more expensive. To illustrate the worth of this, sit down cross-legged on the floor and draw a square around you, that is about a square meter. To purchase a HDB apartment, you are paying $2800 (2100 USD) for that square of space and you own about 120 squares, usually. Also, you aren't allowed to purchase an apartment by yourself until you are 35, because the government believes in traditional "family values", so most people have to get married if they want to live in their own flat. This is why there is a trend of proposals happening whenever talk of purchasing a flat occurs. If you somehow happen to still have a value in your CPF account, you still aren't allowed to retire and take out the amount in whole, the government will ration it and give you like 300 bucks a month from, I dunno, age 65, till you die. This means that this money will never truly belong to you. I work in retail in a country that does not believe in or have a minimum wage in place, how much do you think I earn? I clearly don't earn enough. Whatever your wage is per month, divide it by four and that's my monthly income. Then take away a fifth of it, for my supposed "housing" funds, which means now I have four-fifths of my meagre monthly wage, which I have to spend on food, transport, bills, etc. What do I even have left to save? The only way I can retrieve the 20% of my cumulative wages I have earned so far in my decade of working life (it has chalked up to a couple tens of thousands), as my pure hard-earned cash, is if I renounce my Singaporean citizenship and have lived as a citizen of another country for a minimum of five years. Listen, whatever Singapore is portraying to the world, it isn't even the half of it. It likes to suck up to the powers that be, because we are tiny and have no power of our own. Singaporeans aren't happy, and even foreigners wouldn't be happy if they had to live here like Singaporeans do. I hate it here, and I'm out the first chance I get. I will not contribute to this atrocious North Korean dictatorship pretending to be a democracy when it's not. Again, though, I had a good day. If you'd like to find out more, you are welcome to read the Wikipedia page of the Singaporean CPF, although I'm pretty sure the Singapore government keeps tabs on it so that the controversy tab is kept to a minimum. If you Googled it, you are highly likely to find many more dissidents and much more dissatisfaction than is listed on the Wiki page.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

BOYS LIKE YOU

Adam: Kidding, of course I care, but I also don't think you're crazy
Adam: I think you think you're crazy
Adam: I think you're very sensitive and a bit naive
Adam: But not crazy

Sarah: I didn't like it bc my mother has always monitored me and to have someone else do it was just like jesus gimme a break

Adam: You like have a thought and are like WOW THIS IS SO WEIRD I MUST BE CRAZY
Adam: and it's like
Adam: Nah dude
Adam: You good

Sarah: Very sensitive
Sarah: Means i feel too much?

Adam: But I think being in a society where you don't fit in isn't helping
Adam: Of course you'll feel crazy if everyone around you is acting very different and they have a certain set of values
Adam: That you don't share
Adam: But they're not insane
Adam: Like I think if you were in like, 1800s England they'd say you're insane cuz you read books and are generally dissatisfied with things
Adam: Point being you're not insane but the culture around you isn't built for you

Sarah: It's weird tho
Sarah: Why do i have to go against the grain and make things hard for myself
Sarah: I should stop reading books and feeling dissatisfied :p

Adam: -_-

Sarah: Can i just say
Sarah: Money cant buy class

Adam: U r right

Sarah: Men are alrd the worse gender and having so much money doesnt help any
Sarah: You need to educate your fellow men

Adam: Ur right the rich should be guillotined

Sarah: I mean
Sarah: I never put it so harshly
Sarah: But you were always the one who hoped the trump would die of heart attack
Sarah: V extreme

Adam: Yeah really hoping that happens soon

Sarah: It wont
Sarah: Why would it
Sarah: Also if he dies what happens

Adam: Cuz he's old and fat

Sarah: Please tell me not pence
Sarah: Bc thats not a consolation

Adam: Unfortunately pence
Adam: I know
Adam: He should die too
Adam: Of a boner

Sarah: Yeah deffo
Sarah: For a man
Sarah: And he dies of shock of finally coming to terms w being gay

Adam: Gay joke, nice

Sarah: Whaaaat
Sarah: You can do it but i cant??

Adam: I didn't make a gay joke!

Sarah: Tbh cant tell if ur sarcastic

Adam: I am lightly teasing

Sarah: You always make such r00d jokes
Sarah: I make one and its like gay joke, nice
Sarah: Geeeez

I unfollowed Adam and told him to unfollow me on Instagram 'cos I knew I would continue liking him if I kept talking to him, and yet. This week, when I had a late-night existential crisis and yesterday when I'd done something humiliating (like, possibly in the ranks of getting knocked up by a jock who barely cared about my miscarriage), I went to tell Adam.

Yesterday I told Adam I don't want to trust any man, and I go around looking for the least trustworthy men just so I can prove my point, and he agreed it does seem that way, but then I think, I do trust Adam, despite not wanting to. Yesterday I told him sometimes I think he cheated on his ex so she dumped him, because I'm wired to think that is just a thing all men do.

We've known each other for almost a year. Last year, after the Lush Singapore staff party, we told each other we loved each other for the first time, which is strange, because we hadn't met, and we still haven't met. Yesterday, my manager just said my name was drawn to be our store representative for planning this year's staff party (we have a great theme in mind, and I really hope it's picked).

It's been almost a year, and I still like Adam. I mean, yeah, I don't know how he smells, he's a smoker, I don't know how his hands would feel in mine, I don't know if he has sweaty palms, I don't know if his tongue is a nice size (AHAHAHA) or all the weird things you should know about someone you like, but I also know how he feels when he comes down from doing drugs, I know what he does when he's sick, I know he goes to Vermont to get off the grid, I know he's a proponent of therapy and even though he hates that I run to him only when I need him instead of just talking to him as a regular friend, he's still sort of my minor therapist who undoes some of the damage done by my parenting, etc.

If I had any sort of discipline I would really stop talking to him, because I clearly have no control over my feelings.

Friday, July 20, 2018

THE VOICE INSIDE SINGS A DIFFERENT SONG
(WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?)

Whose idea was it to make me cry so much? This definitely goes into one of my most important favorite Youtube videos. I love this so much, I love the kids and the song and their harmonies and choruses and the performance and the reaction. This fills my heart. Oh Jesus, I love this.


I've been staring at the edge of the water
long as I can remember
never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
but I come back to the water
no matter how hard I try

every turn I take
every trail I trek
every path I make
every road leads back
to the place I know
where I cannot go
where I long to be

see the line where the sky meets the sea
it calls me
and no one knows how far it goes

Thursday, July 19, 2018

GOD IS A WOMAN

you, you love it how I move you
you love it how I touch you
my one, when all is said and done
you believe God is a woman
and I, I feel it after midnight
a feeling that you can't fight
my one, it lingers when we're done
you believe God is a woman

God is a woman
God is a woman, yeah
when all is said and done
you believe God is a woman
you believe God (God is a woman)
God is a woman, yeah
it lingers when we're done
you believe God is a woman

*

It feels like I haven't been here forever. Life is still the same, somewhat, always inching forward but never feeling like it goes anywhere. I got a tiny pay raise at work, and my manager gave me a chart of progression to work towards, so I can move up, which was nice. You know, it makes you feel like you're not just stagnating in life. Bigger, better things are happening in future, yadda yadda yadda.

One time, after my closing shift at work, I'd brought down the rubbish as well as recyclables to the main garbage disposal centre at the hidden basement of the mall I work at, and I'd separated the cardboard and plastics from the rubbish, right.

I then saw one of the people who work for the mall management, either as a janitor, or with garbage disposal or something, chuck them all together into the huge rubbish/waste bin thing, I'm sorry I don't know what it's called. I don't know if all of them do it, I don't know what they're taught to do.

I just want to play my part, in this tiny way I can, to impress upon anyone reading this, that plastic is problematic. First of all, there are about 100 million tons of plastic debris in the oceans, and this kills about 100 million sea creatures in one single year, by strangling them, or accidental choking, or trapping them, whatever. I mean, these animals don't have our so-called developed human brains to know what is food or what isn't. Also, when you are a whale and swallowing a ton of water for your food, you can't be picky about what you consume or do not consume.

Even if you give no fucks about these animals (because why should you, right? you've evolved and now it's all about survival of the fittest), you're still being harmed. Sea creatures consume tons of plastic that have been broken down by the sun, and are therefore being poisoned by plastic microparticles, and guess whose plastic ingestion is increasing via eating all the seafood that we love? That's right, us motherfuckers.

Here goes: a plastic bottle takes 450 years to decompose. You can do your part in separating your recyclables from your waste, but you still can't guarantee what goes on down the chain of events. I work at Lush, and we are major proponents of recycling and using natural products, and I still can't ensure that your step in recycling, goes anywhere in the long run. Recycling still requires energy, and many recycling facilities reject plastic into waste, if it is contaminated with the food or cosmetics or whatever particles used to be in your plastic containers. Not clean? Not good enough to be recycled.

This is why the slogan goes reduce, reuse, and recycle. Recycling is supposed to be your last-ditch attempt, and instead you should be reducing any kind of single-use plastic that you currently still use. That grocery plastic bag you just accepted (if you forget to bring your cloth bag) should last you at least ten more grocery shopping trips. Single-use plastic straws? Never again (I've got my steel straw, by the way, just FYI).

Come on, people. You know how the boomers left us with nothing but insane college debts and rising mortgages from their fucking up the housing market? Can we as millennials please not be the generation that leaves a plastic-polluted Earth for future inhabitants of this godforsaken planet? Please, let this not be our legacy.

My friend from Lush was telling me about how she'd want to create a zine about plastics and going zero-waste, and she said she'd ask me to collaborate, and I hope this happens! We can talk about Earth Overshoot Day (previously known as Ecological Debt Day)!

*

In the past week or so, I've met quite a few friends for different things. One of them told a story about their best friend, who is in what I would say is an emotionally unhealthy and abusive relationship. So she's only dated this one guy her whole life. This guy doesn't post any photos of her on his social media, then when he's asked about it, he just says "I don't have to display my love for you to the world" which is like, you know, okay enough, I guess. He gets caught sending Instagram DMs to other girls, and all he does is turn around and engage in negging and gaslighting her, asking why she's keeping tabs on him --- which she wasn't, by the way, her Instagram app had his account logged in on her phone, and he forgot about it. But then, then she somehow gets caught in a threesome. Look, I'm all for sexual freedom and adventuring, you do you, boo. But don't do something you never wanted.

So this girl, right, she was having a sexytime session with her douchebag fiancé (that's right, they're engaged), when a mutual girl friend of theirs arrived at their place or wherever, so she leaves the room for a while, to do God knows what, but when she gets back, her fiancé is fucking the other girl. She then feels pressured to join them???? By this time, I'm like, what even the fuck is going on????? Girl, if your boyfriend, no, fiancé is fucking someone else, without your prior acknowledgment and consent, that's not even a threesome, he's fucking cheating on you.

I've been wondering what could motivate her to stick with this fucking dickhead of a man, and the person who was telling me this story, said he's the only guy she's ever dated, and she's given "her all" to him, meaning she lost her "virginity" to him. So now she probably feels like she has no more worth to offer to any other man, and she is of course a Malay-Muslim girl, and this, this is precisely why I think the patriarchy is so insidious and so harmful to my community.

Unless and until all the girls with my racial genetic makeup understand and accept that they are in charge of their own bodies, that we can all sleep around with as many men as we want and are comfortable with, that our worth goes beyond much, much, much more than our bodies, that we have our own brains and agency and that the person who came up with virginity as a physical concept and sexual/slut-shaming was very clearly likely to be a man, this community is fucked. Our mums and dads are telling us to keep ourselves "decent and clean and pure", so we find equally decent men, as if our girls' worth is in just the kind of man she gets to eventually marry. It really riles me up because it's 2018, and if you don't think I can sleep around, and still be able to date a good man, whilst also being proud of myself for just being the awesome, stellar human being that I am, you are dead wrong. Look at me, girls, I'm way past my so-called virginity, and I'm still worth more than most of the men I've dated, and I'm willing to bet, so are you. Men as a gender have to step up, and it is not on you to stay and settle for anyone who doesn't know what you're worth. Oh! Kyrene, one of my friends from work, said something that I really love. Although it's really simple, sometimes I think Asian parents really don't understand the concept. So Kyrene has many tattoos on her body, and her dad asks "what if you find a guy who doesn't like your tattoos?" and she just tells him "so you're okay if a guy looks at me for my body and my skin, instead of my heart and brain and what I can bring to the table?" And it made him shut up, lolol.

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Mahirah saw that I was reading This Is What Inequality Looks Like, and she'd written a paper on it for school, so I read it, and now I'm putting it up here. If you ever wondered how institutionalised racism works in Singapore, here is the surface of it. I did tiny minor bits of editing for grammar and such, but otherwise, this is what it was.

Which groups in Singapore may be said to experience institutionalised racism and how does this influence their life chances?

The Malay community has long been known to be the race that lags behind in multiracial Singapore. Malays have been ranked the lowest in terms of socio-economic status, educational attainment and have been known for various social problems like high divorce rates and substance abuse (Bin Mohamed Nasir, 2007). Although the then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew himself said that it was due to the Malays’ refusal to integrate into Singapore society, academics like Alatas (2012), Rahim (1994) and Barr and Low (2005) have attributed this to the trickle-down effects of post-colonialism, where former British colonisers like Sir Stamford Raffles racialised Malays to be indolent. This was then exacerbated by the Malay community’s refusal to accept English education while the rest of the population had already advanced and cultivated an entire generation of English-educated workers (Bin Mohamed Nasir, 2007).

In 2010, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Racism and Racial Discrimination Githu Muigai concluded that the Malay community has been disadvantaged by certain government policies (Gomez, 2012). In light of his results, this essay will focus on Malays to be a group in Singapore that may be said to experience institutionalised racism. This essay will look into issues such as the tudung ban, Malay men and Military Service, the marginalisation of the Madrasahs as well as the cultural deficit thesis that has been propagated by Singaporean society. An analysis of how these issues will consequently influence their life chances will follow.

There are three concepts to take note of in this essay. First, the Malay community is understood as the Malay-Muslim community. This is because majority of the Malays in Singapore are adherents of Islam. The Malay race has been synonymous to being Muslim in Singapore, such that the Malay self-help group, Yayasan Mendaki, is known as the Council for the Development of Singapore Malay/Muslim community. Hence, this essay recognises that any form of discrimination towards religious practices is also an act of discrimination against the Malay community as Islam is commonly accepted as part of the Malay culture in Singapore. Second, institutionalised racism is when racism is propagated by society’s institutions such as schools, workplace and the government through policies and practices that advantage certain races while discriminating others (Macionis and Plummer, 2012). Third, life chances will refer to more than just the Weberian concept of opportunities that an individual has to improve their quality of life (Weber, Gerth and Mills, 1946), it will also refer to the ability to meet one’s needs that are tangible, like material wealth as well as intangible gains, like inner satisfaction.

The Tudung Ban

The tudung is a headscarf that Muslim women veil themselves with as part of their religious obligations. However, despite living in a multiracial and multi-religious society, the tudung is banned from primary and secondary school students and frontline service jobs like police officers and nurses. The voices of the Malays to fight for their right to observe their religion freely remain ignored when the Ministry of Education (MOE) suspended several school girls for wearing the tudung on school grounds of a local government school (Mutalib, 2011). The banning of the tudung is in direct opposition to the Singapore Constitution that stands to let her citizens practice religion freely. Article 15 states that Singaporeans have the right to ‘profess and practice his religion and propagate it’ (Rahim, 2003, pg. 12).

The ban on the tudung is justified by the MOE on the grounds that standardisation of school uniforms promotes ethnic integration. In a statement, the MOE posited that, ‘The government seeks to expand the common space Singaporeans share. Schools require pupils to wear uniforms, regardless of race, religion or social status. Allowing exceptions would fragment the common space and invite competing demands from different communities’ (Barr and Low, 2005).

The reality of the matter is that there have in fact, been exceptions to this rule of social cohesiveness. Students of the Sikh faith have always been allowed to observe their religion by wearing the turban as part of their school uniform since colonial times (Tan, 2011). If the turban, a blatant symbol of the Sikh religion is allowed on school premises, it begs the question as to why the same exemption is not allowed for the tudung.

This act of discrimination has long been a grievance to the Malay community. Insofar as education is concerned, parents have sought to send their students to Madrasahs so as to allow their children to study without compromising their religious beliefs (Mutalib, 2011). A number of Muslim women have had to discard the tudung when it comes to keeping their jobs (Barr and Low, 2005)

Banning the tudung is a form of forced assimilation (Syed, 2013) as Malays have no other choice but to discard part of their cultural identity in order to integrate and be accepted by society. This form of “culture shedding” (Syed, 2013, pg. 430) violates human rights for freedom of religion and freedom of culture.

This adversely affects their life chances as it can be seen that their opportunities for a better quality of life and their needs to fulfil their religious obligations are not met. It is seen that the Malay community has to jettison part of their cultural identity in order to assimilate into the Singapore society. For the Malays who refuse to assimilate into the secular society and choose to hold on to their cultural identity, they will then have to find other means of education and occupation.

Malay Men and Military Service

Gomez (2012) found that Malays are underrepresented in senior positions in the Military as well as the Police force and the judiciary. He attributes it to the perceived notion that the Malay community is not loyal to the city-state. This can further be seen in how Malays are restricted from areas in the military that are seen as sensitive, including intelligence units and elite guards units (Walsh, 2007).

Literature on this subject has shown that two recurring themes are often the reason why there is so much distrust towards the Malays. First, Singapore is situated between Indonesia and Malaysia, both countries’ with populations made up of a large number of Malay-Muslims. Hence, although the Malay-Muslim community might be a minority in Singapore, they are the majority within the region. In 2000, then-Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong confessed that the state is wary of the loyalty of Singaporean Malay-Muslims if a war were to erupt against their fellow Malay-Muslims from neighbouring countries (Kadir, 2004). Second, Malay-Muslims are not trusted to put the interests of their nation before the interests of their religion. Again, Lee Hsien Loong justified keeping Malays away from sensitive areas in the military by rationalising that the “government did not want to put any soldier in a difficult position where his emotions for the nation may come into conflict with his emotions for his religion” (Mutalib, 2011).

This form of institutionalised racism towards the Malay community is practiced by the military and government bodies. Life chances of the Malays in forms of opportunities for career advancements in institutions like the Military and the Police force are stunted because of their perceived disloyalty. Such discrimination also breeds feelings of being alienated from their own society.

Marginalisation of the Madrasahs

This essay will argue that the Singapore government, whether intentionally or not, marginalises the Madrasahs in Singapore. Madrasahs are private religious institutions that provide both religious and secular subjects. Barr and Low (2005) suggests that Madrasahs provide an alternative education path for female Muslim students to study in an environment that allows them to wear the tudung since it is banned in national mainstream schools.

Madrasahs do not receive any form of funding from the government, seeing as they are private institutions. They operate on the funds from wealthy Muslim families and Muslim organisations as well as donation drives that they initiate from time to time (Mokhtar, 2010). This results in a lack of resources to upgrade school facilities and skills of their teaching staff. Madrasah students are also not awarded the same subsidies as government school students, like Edusave, and have to pay their school fees in full, which is usually a hefty sum (Mokhtar, 2010, pg. 115).

Despite the lack of assistance from the government, it is seen that they are adamant on monitoring and patronising the education provided by Madrasahs. The Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) was drafted up as a registry for the government to keep track of the Madrasah teaching staff (Kadir, 2004, pg. 366). The government  started to impose requirements for Madrasah students to meet an average score of 175 for their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) for each Madrasah. Failure to meet the required benchmark would lead to the closure of the Madrasah (Mohd Nor et al., 2017). Such moves from the government caused tension amongst the Malay community, who felt that the government was adamant on the abolition of the Madrasahs altogether (Kadir, 2004).

When put in perspective vis-à-vis the Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools, there seems to be a bias in the importance that is placed on education that is in the interest of the Chinese majority. SAP schools are government-funded private institutions that cultivate Chinese culture and proficiency in the Mandarin language (Barr and Low, 2005). These schools receive a lot of funding from the government, despite also being private institutions and are elitist in nature, accepting only the top students of each cohort (Rahim, 2012). Gomez (2012) argued that the existence of SAP schools further marginalises the minority groups in Singapore, especially since the minority groups were not given the same privilege to have a school that is government-funded and exclusive for their race. The implementation of SAP schools promote mono-ethnicity, which goes against the government’s vision of ethnic integration and social cohesiveness- of which their basis of banning the tudung was for.

The marginalisation of Madrasahs brings dissatisfaction and tension amongst the Malays in Singapore (Mohd Nor et al., 2017). It also limits their life chances as their education is not given the same privilege of being fully funded nor monetarily supported by the government. The creation of SAP schools shows that the government favours education in the interest of the Chinese majority. Furthermore, it marginalises non-Chinese minorities like the Malays who will never be able to enrol themselves and experience the high quality education provided by SAP schools.

Cultural Deficit Thesis

Zubaidah Rahim (1998) pointed out that the perpetuation of the Cultural Deficit Thesis by scholars and politicians alike influenced how Malays were being represented. The Cultural Deficit Thesis blames the underperformance of Malays (relative to other races) on their own cultural weaknesses, bad habits and attitudes (Rahim, 1998). The stereotype that Malays are indolent has been an orientalist perception that pervaded during colonial and post-colonial times (Bin Mohamed Nasir, 2007). It is then further propagated by politicians like Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir who suggested that the Malays would need to act more like the Chinese if they wanted to succeed (Rahim, 1992). Then-minister Lee Kuan Yew even went so far as to prove that Malays were biologically an inferior race (Barr, 1999).

The effects of such pervasive racism, propagated by government figures gave legitimacy to the Cultural Deficit Thesis. Such generalisation is problematic, especially for the Malay community. By racialising Malays to be inferior and lazy, they would be entrapped in self-fulfilling prophecy (Merton, 1948), that is when an individual’s expectations of another person causes the said person to behaviourally conform to what was expected of them. This would then potentially cause the Malay community to accept negative stereotypes as the reality of their inherent selves.

The pervasiveness of the cultural deficit thesis also begets internalised racism. A research done by Annas Bin Mahmud elucidates that internalised racism is indeed prevalent amongst Malay youths in Singapore (2014). DuBois, a classical sociologist coined the term “internalised racism” as racist attitudes towards one’s own ethnic or racial group (Black, 2007). Double consciousness as described by DuBois, is “the state of having one’s own sense of self and also having imposed contempt for an ascribed self” (Black, 2007, pg. 394). Putting it in the context of Malays, they face double consciousness as they are first aware of their own identity and yet, they have come to terms with the indolent identity that has been propagated by society. Therefore, the propagation of the cultural deficit thesis is detrimental to the Malays as they become victims of internalised racism and by self-fulfilling prophecy, might end up as what society has deemed them to be.

Cultural theory of prejudice explains that racism becomes rampant as prejudice towards a race becomes widespread and practiced (Macionis and Plummer, 2012). Thus, another ripple effect of the cultural deficit thesis is that the Singapore society at large acknowledges that the underperformance of Malays is due to their own fallacies in their attitudes and values. It is shown in how there have been teachers with negative attitudes towards Malay students who are not on par with their Chinese counterparts academically and how Chinese employers discriminate against Malays (Li, 1989; Rahim 1998). This then promotes a culture of prejudice as racialisation of Malays becomes a part of everyday discourse in society.

Life chances of the Malays are then seen to be limited by their racial stereotypes. This is because they are racialised with negative traits like indolence and racial inferiority. This then not only breeds self-loathing due to internalised racism, but also by society itself due to culture of prejudice. This will have a negative effect on their academic and employment opportunities.

Conclusion

This essay has concluded that Malays are a group that may be said to experience institutionalised racism perpetuated by authoritative governmental figures and institutions like schools and the military. Instances of institutionalised racism were brought up by issues of the tudung ban, Malay men and the military service, the marginalisation of Madrasahs and the cultural deficit theory. How these issues consequently affect their life chances have also been outlined.

The limitations that this essay has is that it failed to show how the Malays have significantly progressed through the years with the help of government policies and educational support provided by the Malay self-help group, Mendaki. However, Rahim (2012) suggests that although there have been absolute socioeconomic and educational gains by the Malay-Muslim community, there is relative deprivation when compared to the progress of other races as the gaps between the races have not been narrowed. More ethnographic research and research can be done to explore how institutionalised racism has affected the lived experiences of the Malay community in Singapore. This could help policy-makers and relevant authorities in Singapore to find ways in which to help narrow the economic disparity between Malays and the other racial groups in Singapore.