Sunday, May 14, 2017

WHEREVER YOU GO,
GO WITH ALL YOUR HEART

I feel like this post should be in the form of a video log, because I'm gonna ramble on about several different things, and I kinda wanna have more of... a conversation where you can jump from one train of thought to another, then go back to the previous thing, without having a linearity you usually have to have when you're writing.

Anyway, anyhow. If you're here, please read this entire post before forming any conclusion about anything - if you are the sort to have conclusions. I'm not sure if there are any conclusions to be formed, because I have none myself, but I'm just trying to avoid any judgment from anyone, about anyone (myself included), as far as possible.

/ being human:

I turned 27 three days ago, on May 11. At this moment in time, as I'm writing this, I feel like I'm in an alright headspace, and I'm glad to be alive right now, glad to have been alive for the past 27 years.

Late last year and earlier this year, for a rather long while (when I was going through it, it felt like a long while but in the grand scheme of things, life always does manage to go on and nothing really seems to be a long while in your memory, once you've gone past the stage of living through it), I didn't feel very well in terms of my mental health.

I had thoughts that I didn't enjoy having and I'm not proud to have had, and as much as I tried to steer away from them, as much as I tried to surround myself with #positivevibes (how bullshit that sounds now), there was a major hormonal imbalance in my body and until I acknowledged it, I wasn't able to cope with it.

I blamed myself, because of course I had to hold myself accountable for it. I told myself if I hadn't been so carefree and careless, none of it would or could have happened. I would be lying if I said I didn't feel any resentment towards Joey. He was one-half of the equation, of course I 'blamed' him as much as I 'blamed' myself.

To be honest, I think each of us might still think it was more of the other's fault for not taking our own steps for it not to happen. Perhaps that is what usually happened in our previous individual experiences and we took for granted that it is what would happen. He could have done his part in taking precautions, I could have done mine, yet neither of us did. There was no excuse, we were both young and careless. (I wanted to add "wild" but the truth is, neither of us is too wild, we are relatively tame, safe people, except for an aberration of that one summer with all the consequences..... ;P)

After the incident, I didn't realise how badly I would be affected. When I heard a random stranger in public talk about blood, I couldn't breathe and my mind blacked out, and it was only after some time to myself that I realised I'd been triggered to thinking of when I'd bled out. (Yeah, I know right, triggered, what a ~millennial~ sort of word to use.)

I spent a long time going round and round feeling bad about myself, for having made such a big mistake, for not even being financially capable of handling it by myself, I felt ashamed because it's not culturally appropriate or even acceptable, the way I was raised. Basically, everything that I'd done in my life felt like a bad decision and wrong and I'd fucked it all up. It was the hormones making me feel this way, but usually when you're in such a position, you're too far gone to be rational about hormones.

A line of questions that I kept harping on was, "why did this happen to me? why me? am I a bad person?" It was pointless and destructive and I never got anywhere but finally, when I got right down to it, I accepted that it happened just because I was and am fundamentally human.

It's easy to forget that people are flawed, and for some of us - terribly flawed: because most of us like to think only about shiny, happy moments, and try to make life about only the shiny, happy moments. But it isn't. Being human and living a human life means exactly that there will be times when everything feels like it's going to complete and utter shite.

You might have to go through a divorce, break up an engagement, lose your loved one, get diagnosed with serious medical conditions, experience failures in studies and in businesses, cheat or get cheated on, be bullied for your sexual orientation, have kids before getting married and be shamed for it, be assaulted or raped, be disowned by your family, have a miscarriage, and the list, sadly, is non-exhaustive. You will inevitably hurt yourself or someone else, or someone will hurt you.

The only way to avoid any of it is to stay indoors like Spongebob did in an episode, and not have any interaction with the outside world (I recognise that Spongebob is not a human being, but he is a personified sponge).

And so.... I just want to say that if you are going through something that you think is incredibly negative, or you feel like you've fucked up and nothing will ever go right again for you, welcome to the ranks of humanhood.

In the entire history of mankind, millions upon millions and perhaps billions of our fellow human beings have gone through some version of it before. The ones who are alive, who are around you, have either already gone through their own struggles, are going through it and may not be showing it, or may not have met with their personal ordeals at this point, but may do so in future.

And it's human to do so. It's human to have the very worst things happen to you. You could be feeling pain like you feel should not be humanly possible, you could want to lie flat on the toilet floor and never move or do anything again (Izzie Stevens ref, anyone?) for the rest of your life, like your heart is curling up so much you'd rather die, or that you're already dead inside. You might want the hurt to show on the outside, like a battle wound or scar, so that you can explain why you don't feel like going to work or go on with the rest of your life, because hey, look? I feel like I've been stabbed/shot/whatever, even though I'm physically intact. And you won't even have that as an easy out, because what happens in your heart, people say is just all in your head, even though you are consumed by your pain and sorrow and grief, you think you can't possibly feel anything good again. It happens because as a human being, you are capable of feeling hurt, even if nothing physical has apparently happened to you. And this happens to all of us.

I'm reading a book called note to self by Connor Franta at the moment. I haven't gotten through a substantial portion to decide whether it's good or bad or if I like it yet, but even in the first few chapters, there is this paragraph that resonated with me---
My struggle, my pain, my grief, my despair, my tears—they're not uncommon. They're shared. And once something is shared, it loses its isolating potential. That's something I've come to realize—once I understood that I'm experiencing something that millions of others have endured before, and are enduring at the same time, it somehow makes it feel less frightening, less heavy, less individual.
I guess I can say at this point, now that it's sort of behind me, that I, for one, am glad I felt all the negativity that I've felt, all through my life. It means I risked something. I risked many things. I invested myself in situations, in people. I have stories to tell. I'm in non-mint condition, I'm all banged and scratched up, in my head, my womb, my heart, my skin, all of it. I explored the spectrum of human emotion and have wasted none of it. My hope for you is, if and when you are experiencing the bad, dark, tumultuous, uncertain, stormy parts of life, that you remember that we as a species are equipped with the heart to feel it, and the brains to think through it, and that making mistakes or having mistakes or anything sad/bad/mad happen to you, is part of being human. We'll feel it and we'll go through it together. Because we're the only ones evolved enough to be able to. And because the best stories are the ones lived out.

(Plus: what happened to me/us was basic science, and for dating a rocket scientist, we really were selfishly careless, to assume that 1+1 would always remain as two. Hello??? It's not even rocket science to know that's not true when people are involved. I learned my lesson the tough way. Humanhood, right?)

depression:

In the past seven months or so, I tried to externalise whatever I was feeling, with the exception of in front of my mum and extended family. I think the fact that I was not allowed to feel it in its fullest with the people I live, prolonged the amount of time I needed to get through it, because talking/communicating outwardly is how I sort of get through and over things. I'm saddened to say that my values are not my mum's values, and her deep shame at whatever she has experienced in her life and that has happened in mine, made me feel much more negative about myself and the incident, than I objectively would have, and even do right now.

But that's besides the point. First I want to say, most, almost all of the people who were by my side through the past year, have been the greatest help, and I'm immensely grateful that they stepped up, spoke some words to me, showed that I wasn't alone, even if I felt I was. I made boundaries, saying what I thought would be okay for them to say or ask, and what I thought would upset me, and beyond just sticking to those lines, they said some really comforting things: don't feel like you need to set a deadline to feel better, take all the space and time you need, let the days pass, and don't count down or up to anything. Every day is just another separate day, every step is another step. A couple of people said things that weren't very helpful, but I'm going to assume they haven't had any prior experience in coping with depression, so that's fine. They tried, and I think that's what matters.

I am by nature an expressive person, and that's possibly why I'm articulate (at least on a screen even if not in person). I say things to people, loved ones, or the public. Anyone. I might be fortunate that I knew to set my initial boundaries of people wanting to express concern, and that people who were in the know generally were amazing at taking care of me. However, I still felt that during the time I expressed my darkest thoughts, certain members of the audience were uncomfortable with it, and they made me feel like i) I had no business expressing negativity, and ii) I should snap out of it, as if it was as simply done as said. I think that it's a nasty, pathetic side of social media that you feel pressured to only share the good things, so that you don't "affect anyone else". It's problematic, because as life goes, it's not always shiny, happy people, doing shiny, happy things. This is probably why people forget that life is quite often full of shite things happening to good people.

If any one of you reading this feels what I'm talking about, I hope you know that you shouldn't have to hide your sadness. You can talk about feeling down and out, despite trying otherwise. I hope that the people in your social circles are as kind and soft and generous as the ones who have been for me, and that you understand that people being people, there are those who will go through the worst of it with you, even though others put you through that worst. I hope that your loved ones step up for you the way they did for me. Otherwise, if you're ever overwhelmed, whoever you are, and wherever you're from, you can talk to me, because hey look! I am a fellow human being who is way too familiar with messing up. This offer stands, months and years from now, as long as I'm alive.

kids, adoption & perhaps the general state of the world:

In a semi-ironic turn of events, I have a feeling I will not be giving birth in my life. When the choice was presented to me, my heart and hormones overruled my head, and I felt I needed to have it. This was amplified because I generally hate and avoid making major decisions and am pretty much crippled from saying "no", so when I found out the news, I was leaning towards "okay, well that's it then, this is happening" but in a much more frantic, chaotic manner. I didn't think about it all that rationally, because I'm telling you, wait till you go through it (meaning: guys, you're exempt from this, as you always happen to be) and your hormones are a mess, the very word 'rationale' will no longer exist in your vocabulary.

However, since that choice was removed by chance (it happens to 80% of women, I learned a new fact!), I've had the time to properly think about it, about bringing a life into this world. Between my last birthday and this one, among the myriad of injustices are: Trump became POTUS, Syria happened and is still happening, multiple more "religious-backed" terrorist attacks took place and will inevitably continue to. The closest description to how I feel about the state of the world is... helpless. In this era of technology, there are people still living in poverty, or diseased, or lacking access to food and water, or all of the aforementioned, born with nary a chance of education or climbing out of their plight. Kids are brainwashed and recruited to join "religious" extremist groups, lest harsh consequences are carried out to themselves or their families.

All we do, all we can do, is close our eyes and numb ourselves. We raise our kids wherever the heck we are, try to give our kids the best advantage they can have, without acknowledging that one more kid we have is one less chance an impoverished child could have at making it anywhere in this world. Human life on this planet is a zero-sum game. The resources I take up, disadvantages someone else. We are overcrowded, overpopulated, and yet we care more about portraying our shiny, happy lives in saturated squares.

I don't know why I had this existential crisis but I think I might like LA because it's full of people trying to escape reality. Pick your poison: dance, date, drink, drug. Try to find your life purpose, buy into the lie and feel sorry for yourself, when to be honest, life itself has no meaning. We don't feel empathy for people we're not "related" to. The default human condition has to be sedated or we face the stark truth of life, unfair and full of suffering, too crippling for the average person to deal with.

The world is in a very sombre and sordid state of affairs, and I honestly think if ever I were properly ready to raise a child, I would adopt an orphan. I will not be bringing another life into existence and have to put on rose-colored glasses for them, pretend everything is happy and shiny. I think I would like to help someone who might be in a dire situation otherwise, and hopefully be for them the person I needed when I was younger, or even be the person that I still need now.

I hope I don't come across as.... perceiving that this is the only right thing to do. I'm well aware that not everybody has gone through the same things I have. Every individual story is their own. I'm happy for people who have found someone to share the rest of their lives together, and also really happy if and when they do have their own offspring. Perhaps they've got their lives well put together enough that they would raise their child to do good for the world, or perhaps they're a celebrity who can raise their own child and still manage to offset their carbon footprint, or fund another disadvantaged child's existence. Who knows? I'm not here to judge, and I'm not judging anybody.

Also: I'm barely twenty-seven, and I don't claim to know everything. Of course nothing is set in stone. Nothing ever is. Maybe when Trump is no longer POTUS nor instigating casual bigotry, the world will be a fairer place. Maybe people will be more compassionate towards immigrants and realise they're all just seeking brighter futures. Maybe racism will actually be acknowledged as a problem and cops don't shoot black kids just because they're perceived "threats". Maybe one day, terrorism will be tackled and the illogical problem-solution misfit of having too much food wastage in the world and yet millions of people not having access to any food will be solved. Maybe one day I could be motivated to give birth to my own kid, but looking at the world as it is now, maybe not in my lifespan.

....Especially since my father had six kids and my mother had four (overlapping two), and I feel like that's enough to make up for my portion of the birth rate/population control. Sorry, I tried not to go there, but I still did. ¯\_(ใƒ„)_/¯

/ love, dating, relationships & Joey

As well as being a hopeless romantic, I tend to be pragmatic, and those two concepts don't necessarily gel very well. So... I don't yet know where this is going to go, until it's typed and then we shall see, together. This could possibly be like five different tangents crossing over and tangling with each other, and I could be going back and forth about stuff.

My mother and I occasionally don't get along because we have differing ideas on gender performance and conformity. I subscribe to the notion that life would be much simpler if human adults were allowed to act on their natural instincts, but she subscribes to the idea that life is a test, and we don't live for this life. It creates some tension in our house and in our relationship, and I understand that she doesn't see my point of view, but she seems to think that my moral value is linked to the clothes I wear, or what I do with my body. As much as I respect our right to practise different lifestyles, I wish she would understand that just because I don't like all the things she likes, or I don't believe all the things she does, does not in any way mean I disrespect her or love her less. Love is love is love. I love her, but I also don't think you have to agree on everything with the people you love, or change them to be like you. I say this in this part of the blogpost because I have massive amounts of love for my family, but certain things strain our relationship, and I find it unnecessary.

I like to do things based on trust, and freedom. I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. Practically speaking, you cannot change a person's belief just because you believe in something. Not unless it's a scientific fact that cannot be disproved like, the earth is round. That's not how God and religion are, though, and even if God exists, I'm sure that "there is no compulsion in religion" would be a basic and true tenet. That my path in life is my own, and I should not be living according to how another believer wants me to live my life. That's not how it works. If the intention is not organically my own, and I'm only doing it because someone else is preaching to me to do those things, am I a true believer? I feel like as kind and sincere as a person's intentions might be, to be "religious" and spread the word, sometimes it backfires and pushes others away. We were not all intended to live the same way, we were all made different. I think this is why I'm so dissatisfied with living in Singapore, this place has no trust for its citizens, the sale of chewing/bubble gum is prohibited because we are not trusted to dispose of gum properly. I mean, how can a relationship be a happy one when it has no trust, no freedom and so much restriction? We also still have the death penalty, which goes to show human rights isn't the most forwarded of causes here.

This is also why I think travelling is crucial to personal development. People my age and younger are more open and accepting, regardless of the faiths they subscribe to. We've seen that there is so much to this, so much more to living on Earth. The world has seven billion people, of whom 1.8 billion profess to be Muslim. These billions of Muslims believe different things, live their lives differently. There are 1.8 billion ways of being a Muslim, and just because you believe in one specific, certain way does not allow you to override how I want to live as a Muslim. I think people who haven't seen the world are afraid of seeing that other forms of Islam, or even of Christianity, of atheism, and various alternative lifestyles exist, and that these people are good, and happy, and morally-upright people. It's a threat to their own beliefs, that you need to be or do things in a certain way, before you are considered to be living your life right. I feel bad for the generations before me, of course, because they've always been slogging too hard, too much of the time, to travel the way our generation does, and they tend to stick to what they know instead of expanding their horizons.

I understand that my mum's protectiveness comes from a place of concern, and I appreciate it, but I really want to say, what I need is please let me be my own person and live my own life. I would like to tell my mum that she's done a fine enough job of raising me, but I'm an adult and it is my turn to make my decisions, and trust that no matter what I do, it is fully informed and I will never regret the choices I make. One of my best friends said something that added to my perspective a couple of nights ago. She said, "if your mum believes that life is a test from God, then she should see it as a test for herself, that you were created differently from her, that you question and do things differently, but still try to accept you the way God would accept you."

The thing about it being tough for me is that apart from my sexuality and openness to the world, unlike certain people who have chronic issues with their relatives and loved ones, my family and I actually really love each other and get along well. That's why it's not as easy for me to just say, oh I'll pursue my freedom and do more of what makes me happy, because my mum would take it as a sign that I don't care for her, which is not true at all. It's like I'm stuck between a feather pillow and a really soft place, but either way, I will be smothered to death.

Right, so, anyway.

I love Joey, or I like him very, very much. I suppose there is no way I can deny this. I try to be conscious of why I do what I do, or why I feel how I feel, so I ask myself, why do you love Joey? I know sometimes people wonder whether race/skin colour/culture plays a part, because I've been dating mostly Westerners in the past couple of years. I can't say it isn't true. I've dated my fair share of Asian guys, and given my worldviews, I really find it easier for myself to relate to liberal Western men. Most men here were raised by women who, directly or indirectly, gave in to their boys' demands, much more easily than to their daughters. When men like these meet me, they expect me to also fold and cave, defer to them, the way their mothers did to their fathers.

I cannot speak for all of Asia, but in Singapore, and from the pool of Asians I dated, local men are misogynistic, and it's so internalised they haven't even begun to acknowledge or unpack it. It's in all the cultures here, even if we have the majority Chinese, and minority Malay/Indians. Our society, when it comes down to a basic family nucleus, will prioritise males over females. We still allow our boys to be lazy at home, but never girls. We believe in antiquated ideas like, guys can have sex with many partners, but not girls, or you will lose your "value". In fact, the very patriarchal concept of virginity still exists here. If you could just see me rolling my eyes now.... I don't even mean this to occur only in generations before my own, it's so ingrained that some of my best friends still subscribe to it. Until quite recently, so did I. In my own religious/cultural background, men are still the "leaders" of the household, and my female voice/viewpoint is dismissed so much more easily when I am speaking to a Malay man, than if I were to speak to a Western man.

I just had a conversation with my grandmother last night, and she's the sweetest, but she believes in things that make me outright scoff (I don't think I know how to scoff: Gabe ref, anyone?). She advised me to change my image --she literally used the word "image" which is a pretty big deal, considering she doesn't feel comfortable speaking English-- so that I can attract a decent man, to marry me. Because Lord forbid that "good, decent" men love "non-wholesome" women such as myself. Upside-down smiley parade!!!! Omg breaking news, I just found out you can use emojis on Blogger. ๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ™ƒ

I'm a feminist, and an overwhelmingly outspoken one at that, so I know that I will not get along with any man who was raised in a patriarchal/sexist way. Of course I know there are Western men who are just as sexist as any Asian man, and Asian men who are properly feminist, but the latter are few and far between. Generally, if you're an Asian man who benefits from the privilege you have over Asian women, I doubt you'd be too bothered to try to change the status quo. Also: if you're a feminist woman who's dating or in a relationship with an actual feminist man (and not the kind who profess themselves feminist just to get laid by liberal feminist women, because yes of course such sleazeball men exist), congratulations, you've snagged yourself a rare Pokรฉmon, and I am very happy for you.

Then there's the issue of money. I don't have to say it, but someone else has probably already thought it. I could have fallen for Joey because I'm attracted to money. I mean, of all the hosts I stayed with, Joey was the most well-to-do. He and I had a joke about his family being superprivileged because their house has three living rooms, for goodness' sake. Plus, he was also the one who drove the sports car, bringing me racing in the Malibu canyons. I must say, though, I've always loved adrenaline rushes, it's been one of my favourite things to take thrill rides with Han to celebrate our birthdays or overseas trips, so obviously, I would fall for the guy who drives racecars, right? I could unwittingly become the poster-girl for Good Charlotte lyrics "girls don't like boys, girls like cars and money." And it's such a tired trope, of Asian women being with white guys for their money. When I was in LA, there were Uber drivers who told me to find a man with a navy-blue passport (ie. the US passport, to the uninitiated) to marry, and I giggled, but also I was dismayed, because it really still happens, and I'm just like what?!?!?!?!

So yeah, it would be tough for me to disprove that I like Joey for the fact that he's a rich white guy. Because he's white and rich. But then I know that's not the person I am. I'm a romantic, I've never needed money to enjoy the best relationships I've had, plus apart from letting me live under his roof, Joey didn't pay for anything for me. One time, I think I was looking for cash for some takeout we'd ordered, and he was telling me I didn't have to pay for it, but he was hesitant and tentative about doing it. I dunno if it's 'cos he knows I'm a feminist and he thought I wouldn't be okay with him offering to pick up the tab, or if he didn't wanna insult me by insinuating that I wasn't able to support myself (although tbh I was indeed running low on funds). Or perhaps he just thought I was out to use him for his money. Who knows? ¯\_(ใƒ„)_/¯

If Joey was a regular working-class guy, I'd date him and probably feel more comfortable about it. If I wanna date a white guy, Joey or otherwise, I'd have to be financially stable myself, and work for my own livelihood, but because he's financially very comfortable, I have to work even harder to show that it's not his money that I like. It would be so much easier if he was broke like I am, lololol. Also: I have dated filthy rich guys and dirt-broke guys, and those other affluent men gave me no feelings and some guys with no cash were my favourites, so. Bottomline is, I shouldn't have had to prove it to anyone but money really isn't what matters to me.

The previous few paragraphs were: "not reasons why I like Joey", and the next few are "reasons why I do like Joey". Also, just as a heads up, sometimes I think being around me is like constantly having to remember the fifth amendment, because everything you say and do, can and probably will be used about you. It's not even only for men, I do the same thing with everyone. If you say/do something and I witness it, you can bet your bottom dollar I'll store it in the compartment of my brain that recognises who everyone is. It's my journalistic tendencies playing out in all my life aspects.

Anyway, anyhow.

He's empathetic, although he doesn't show it unless prodded. In the last few days of my trip to LA, one of my ex-bosses in Singapore passed away, so Joey and I had a conversation about prayers. I was being cynical, but then Joey said "well, people do what they need to feel better, and sometimes praying helps people feel better." When we ordered pizza, Joey gave the pizza guy more cash for tips, which had slipped my mind, because in Singapore "tips" are incorporated in the bill and we don't have a tipping culture. He said "we gotta tip him, he's on minimum wage and I'm a decent human being!" The first night I met him, I word-vomitted my life story up to that moment, and he said "I would wanna run away if that happened to me, too."

He is incredibly patient, he gave me my first-ever practical driving lesson in his Honda stick-shift, at a Kaiser Permanente parking lot. Do you know how many times I stalled the engine, and had to restart it again? More times than I can remember. In one afternoon. His poor, beat-up car. I feel bad for it. I also feel bad for him, because he had to explain how to rest my hands and how to move them to turn the steering wheel, so that they wouldn't cross over each other. He repeated this eleventeen hundred times and I still didn't get it, because I am a dumbass. (Also: shouldn't my level of hand-eye coordination be the same for driving and for drumming, but, how???) The whole time I was just amazed at how patient he was, and I wanted to kiss him. Maybe I wanted to see his patience for teaching me and how long it would have taken to push him over the edge, because I'm crazy.

One of the weekends, after we'd got back from racing his Mazda in the canyons, I left his car immediately because I wanted to get to his air-conditioned room. In case you don't know me, I suffer from hyperhidrosis, so I'm almost constantly perspiring. It used to be palmar hyperhidrosis (and I'd always spoil gadgets from holding on to them), but then I went for a procedure called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy, which cut the nerves to my palms so I would never perspire there again, and now I just sweat equally excessively from everywhere else. That day was a hot summer day in LA, and Joey's Mazda doesn't have A/C (he removed it so it would be a light body kit ideal for racing), so his car is essentially a sauna in the sun. I wasn't really thinking about my car seat probably covered in all my sweat when I left the car (and I know how much it would have pooled because even in air-conditioned public transport I can see my beads of sweat left on the seats). I didn't mean to leave him behind, I just needed to get into the cool indoors. After the fact, though, I realised I should have stayed and helped him, because omg, it's my sweat, but the thing is, he never mentioned it, nor did he ever show anything to signify that it bothered him in the slightest.

You know? It's all these things that I find gross about myself, that certain people would just brush off and say "nah, it's human" that make me feel like, aww, that's really nice and understanding. As an aside, the fact that I have hyperhidrosis is possibly one of the reasons why I may never put on weight. It's not exactly a great trade-off. I mean, you should see the number of clothes I can soak in a day, from doing nothing but sitting down. Eurgh.

The night we were at Hermosa, I needed to pee, so I insisted on taking an Uber or lyft back, although he told me we were near enough to walk home. It took forever, because it was a Saturday night and everybody was waiting to get an Uber/lyft, but Joey and I sat at a bus stop (I don't actually know what the structure was, tbh), and I remember going on and on about needing to pee, but never considering walking home. When we got back, I realised that the ride was really short, and we could have walked for sure. It's moments like those, that I really appreciate him always giving in, and letting me have my way. For someone whose favourite word is adamant and who considers himself adamant, he's actually really sweet and.... pliable. Perhaps I can just be more adamant than he is.

Then there are all the little things, because it's always the little things, innit? The time I was FaceTiming with my grandma, Joey popped his head to say "hi, grandma!" but I said "Joey, duck! my grandma's not supposed to know I'm in your bed." The man was housing me for three weeks of the summer and yet I wouldn't let him be in my FaceTime frame with my grandma. Or when he brought me to meet his friends at parties, or for meals. When he was scratching Love Story by Taylor Swift, for me, and Russ came into the room unexpectedly, throwing both Joey and I off. That he's an engineer who works on the design of rockets for SpaceX, and I felt small, but then he said "you know lots of things I don't! you speak three languages!" and my head went: oh my God you are an attractive, intelligent, lovely, musically-trained man, please don't add humility to the mix, stahp making me fall for you even more, stahp, staaaaahp my heart is melting already.

Or when we started discussing limousines 'cos we saw one. He told me he and his housemates owned a limo for a period of time, so I asked whether it had any pull effect on girls, and he said "I dunno, I had a girlfriend while we had the limousine", which signaled very loud and clearly to me, that this was a man who would not cheat. He was offhand about it, he didn't know me well enough yet to know that my mind is a database of conversations, but I knew, as much of a party guy as he is, he doesn't see a reason to cheat, which is basically all that I look for, isn't it? It saddens me to say it, but I'm attracted to people who don't remind me of my father, and Joey fits the bill completely. He's faithful, honest and responsible. I can tell by his dynamics with his housemates and neighbours that he's usually the reliable one, financially or otherwise.

And then earlier this year, while I was back in Singapore, after having read my posts, he told me upfront that he was starting to see someone else. He stopped being in contact with me, but then he was no longer dating that person, so we started talking again. I was assured 'cos he understands that I just require complete honesty, after having been strung along, so many times. I was grateful that he told me, although he didn't need to be at all accountable to me, because we were never in a relationship and he's not obligated to, and also because I was also already dating back here (to get over the incident, I think it helped somewhat).

I could try to rationalise it till the cows come home, but that's all probably after the fact. I love Joey, and there is no explanation for it. It's in how he texts me at some random time, I could be anywhere doing anything, and I light up at his text. It doesn't even matter what he texts me, I'm happy to know that he's alive and well. That I'm on his mind is secondary, just knowing he's okay is what makes me glad. If I could just know intermittently in life that he's okay, it feels right for me. It feels like everything is going to be okay.

So, you know, sometimes people ask whether Joey likes me, and I've also been wondering the same even since I was still in LA. Bill, this other really sweet host of mine, asked whether Joey liked me, because it was obvious that I liked him. My answer is always... I suppose? I suppose he liked me a reasonable amount, and Bill agreed, because yknow, he was patient with me and let me drive his car, I was the first person who rode pillion on his new bike, he thought of me while he was out with his friends, and Ti'aan, one of his housemates, said I was always on Joey's mind, etc etc. I suppose he liked me enough while I was in LA, for us to date while I was there, because it was convenient. But Joey is an ambitious man, and his work is important, world-changing work, so he's too busy to keep up with anything that takes too much effort.

And I get it. He grew up in California, and more than that, he grew up very comfortably in California. As a 27-year-old man, he has the prerogative to be carefree and have fun. It could be all that he has known, so I understand that. I don't know how attractive he is when placed against other white men, or how attractive he is to white people, or in the grand scheme of attractiveness, but to me, I think he's super cute. I feel very strongly attracted to him, and I used to think it's because I really like cuteypie boyish types (which Joey was) who have clean-shaven faces, but then a couple of weeks ago, he sent me a photo of him with a full-grown beard and mustache, and my brain instantly went "dayummm, this man is fine" so I thought this must be love hahahahaha. ;P

This next tangent may sound a little crass or crude, but if it does, you shouldn't be surprised 'cos I've always been crass/crude *fake gasp*. I understand that Joey wants to have fun and be free because frankly, I do too. He's an understanding, intelligent, rich, attractive, talented man, he should have no dearth of suitors. In a matter of heightened self-awareness, nor do I. Sometimes I get amused when the men I date say they were intrigued by me because they think I'm strong for having gone through so much, or they're fascinated by the way I think. I want to roll my eyes because if I looked less attractive, it wouldn't have mattered how "valuable" my life experiences are, they would have swiped left. I'm gonna be honest with you, if the men I date can be superficial and decide on me because I know how to wear bronzer to give myself cheekbones, or that I'm tall and slim and dress myself well, there is no reason why I can't afford myself the same luxury of being picky about how my man looks. Especially because I know beyond the makeup and clothes, I actually do have some substance in the form of my brains and heart.

When I got rejected by the men I fancied, which has happened several times in my life, they would tell me "Sarah, look at you, a girl like you will definitely find someone" and it could be just some standard template answer people give to the ones they don't fancy, and I never believed it was true, until now. Now, I truly believe there is nothing wrong with me. I have gone through enough life to know that there are guys who would go the extra mile for me, I am an intelligent, loyal, affectionate, independent, inquisitive, witty, sociable woman who can stand up for myself and hold my ground. I also am really busy with my own life. I barely have enough time to sleep: I'm always hustling to earn money, I have good friends to meet, movies and TV shows to watch and books to read to learn something new about the world every day. I have my own book to keep writing. I mean, look, there are people half my age, and some twice my age, who are reading this, from as far as thousands of miles away. For some reason, my words matter in some form or manner, to people I don't even know. I don't quite have time to date either, if I actually really sorted out my priorities by matter of importance. I think traditional men want women to perpetually be besotted with the idea of romance and love so we're too distracted to take over the world and run it ourselves.

This is me living out what I learned from the research in Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance. Our grandparents, and their grandparents, and everyone before that used to marry the first person they dated, and often within the same block, if not the same apartment building. But now, we live in the age of a multitude of options. Given our current lifespans, let's take the average decline of virility at 60, that means if I get married at 30, and assuming we want our marriage to work out, my life partner and I would have to be physically faithful to each other for thirty years*. I say this because I'm not the kind of person who would forgive my partner if they cheated on me. I especially cannot stand it when cheats go back to their spouse and say "it didn't mean anything". You did a wrong by cheating on me, you don't get to define what that wrong means to me. We made a promise to stick with each other through everything, so if you cheat on me, that means to me, the victim of your wrongdoing, that you consciously chose to forget about me and the promise you made to me, and that promise now means nothing. Sayonara, sucker.

*thirty years though, dyou know how long that is? That's longer than I have lived so far, and my 27 years already feels like an eternity.... The FOMO could be quite real.

That's why I think, pragmatically speaking, I do believe there is some good in exploring the options I have. This is possibly a bad analogy to use, and hopefully my husband is not the kind to think of women as food/objects, but here goes: when I say sushi is my favourite food, I am comparing it to every type of food I've had, or it would mean nothing. If I've only had sushi in my life, then my conclusion isn't even very objective or significant. So when I choose my life partner, I want to know that I've dated a range of men, and my favourite person that I want to settle down with is actually my favourite based on all previous experiences I've had, and not some "divine" intervention or a media-backed idea of "the one". While I'm doing this, I also hope my future life partner (if I have one) is doing the same, so that when we do commit to each other, he's well aware of the entire "sea of fish" that he's forgoing for a life with me, that he knows what I'm worth and, through at least thirty years, not think of what-ifs and could-have-beens. Also: the good thing about my not wanting to give birth is, now my biological clock can keep ticking, and I could still date. :)

I don't know if the idea isn't romantic, but divorce rates are high, and judging by some failing marriages, it should be even higher than it actually is. It's why I believe cohabitation is thoroughly important before a couple decides to spend the rest of their lives together. I guess that's how I actually developed some levels of connection with Joey. We knew each other's pet peeves, or when to do our own thing and stay out of each other's way, even when I was living in his house. Close to a decade ago, I forget whether it was before, during or after B and I were doing long-distance while he studied in Melbourne, Shahida asked "how often do you feel the need to meet your boyfriend?" and I said "maybe once every three weeks" so she literally, hyperbolically said, "wow he could be living on Mars." It's 'cos my favourite things to do are solitary activities, I don't need company for the things I enjoy doing. I like to read, write, watch TV/movies, and none of those things requires having someone else with me. In fact, I quite like doing them alone. I like being in my own head, and zoning out by myself.

One of my hosts, from much earlier in my trip, was sweet, but also very chatty, and I complained about it to Joey and my best friends. Joey doesn't really like to talk much, which was brilliant for me, because as you can all attest from the ramble of words above, when I'm in the mood, I can talk nineteen to the dozen. Like the time Big Wok would not accept my $1 coins from the Metro top-up machine and I ranted: "I'm gonna take this up with the government, I'm in the US now and I have rights!!!! I should be able to use coins that are valid US currency!!" He just rolled his eyes and laughed, I'm pretty sure he thought "this crazy Singapore girl."

So.... Yup. I no longer know whether I lean closer to romantic or practical, because I think, practically speaking, you have to try with a few potential candidates before you find the best fit, for a considerably long period of time.

/ Netflix and no chill:

TV used to be a form of distraction to keep the masses occupied. I suppose it still is, but personally I really love Netflix's great content. Considering I had to keep myself distracted while keeping my depression at bay, Netflix was such an amazing preoccupation, the things they've recently been churning out are entertaining, relevant, and I'd say could boost your brain cell activity, rather than killing them.

There are 8 shows on Netflix that I'd have to say I would recommend to anyone and everyone, and I would get Netflix accounts for all of you just so you could watch those eight. (Or at the very least: Black Mirror. Get on it, y'all.)

I really enjoy Chef's Table, it's a documentary about chefs/restaurants/food. It's my favourite documentary series ever. On the one hand, I don't watch many documentaries so you might not want to take my word for it, because what do I know about the topic, right? On the other hand, perhaps because I tend not to watch documentaries but have overwhelming love for Chef's Table, you might be convinced that it's a really interesting series to watch. ๐Ÿ˜

Each episode is about a chef with a fascinating story, like Grant Achatz who had tongue cancer, and had to create recipes without the use of his taste, but entirely from memory. I mean, c'mon, what? It's very diverse, too, there are Asians and South Americans, an Australian and as far out as Slovenia. Who even thinks of Slovenia as a place? Where are they? Who cares? Me, 'cos I wanna go to Ana Ros' restaurant, which is also literally her home, in one bungalow-building-thing.

The videography is visually stunning, and wherever it's filmed, you really get the sense of the place as a story, and why it played a part in the creation of the restaurant, or the inspirations behind the respective chefs' styles. Also: it always leaves me hungry. Even though some of it looks like art. It's like an ~experience~ just watching Chef's Table. I have a new aim in life that is to try and visit as many of the Chef's Table restaurants, or to meet the chefs and try their cooking (not all of them run restaurants, one is actually a monk in Korea). I know there were two episodes about restaurants in L.A. and another in San Francisco. I think I'll try hit them up the next time I'm in Cali.

I started watching Chewing Gum with two of my sisters, and we got hooked because it pretty much depicts myself and Melyssa. (Also: we're all trying to switch from calling her Lyssa to Mel, so when I say Mel, please get on board.) It's about these British black sisters who live with their excessively strict religious Christian mum, and how they end up being sneakily rebellious 'cos they're always thirsty and trying to get some.

If that sounds familiar...... ;)

It's set up in a British ghettoish community, and with the wry wit and dry humour, the things she and her sister get up to are unbelievable but hilarious. She had a cocaine trip without even knowing it. It was mostly a fun show to watch, and very short and few episodes, so if you wanna kill time laughing at nonsense, Chewing Gum is a great option.

(At this moment in time, because this post was written over a few days, of course - I don't have the luxury of spending too much time writing in one sitting - but anyway, at this point of time, my colleague just reminded me of glasses that were invented to help correct colour-blindness, she brought it up in conversation because her brother is colour-blind. Then I thought, hey those would make a good gift for Joey, who is also colour-blind.

Also, I just got a new laptop and I'm trying to get myself a sleeve so I don't destroy this one like I did my previous laptop. I'm on Amazon and I see so many things I like, but none of them ships to Singapore. Why, Singapore, Y DO U HATE ME? Imma have to ship it to my U.S. P.O. box --thank fuck for entrepreneurial initiatives-- then forward it to Singapore, meaning double the shipping time and prices. Ugh. #firstworldproblems

Yeah, that's all, goodbye. Go on with the rest of the post.)

Imma let you finish but Black Mirror is the best TV show of all time. Of. All. Time. It's a series set in either an alternative-reality or the near-future with even more advanced technology, such as the ability to store your memories in memory-card-like "grains", set a part of yourself as a "cookie" so that the rest of your brain can be used optimally for more important functions, etc. etc.

The best part about Black Mirror is that, while surreal, all the technology implemented seems like it could be real and happen very soon, and the moral issues that come about from the use of such gadgets were portrayed very realistically. I loved the White Bear, Fifteen Million Merits and San Junipero episodes, or the twist ending in Men With Fire. To be honest, out of thirteen episodes in the series so far, I think I could have eleven favourites.

I enjoyed everything about Black Mirror, from the universe it was set in, to the dialogue, to the brilliant acting. It was such good writing, it just made me feel like, this is the stuff I want to be writing!!! You might know that the novel I'm writing.... When anyone asks what genre it is, I tend to answer "sci-fi", although I try to avoid putting it into a specific genre, because it's not really, really sci-fi, and sci-fi makes people think of very futuristic, sciencey stuff like Star Wars or Star Trek. It sort of would fit into an episode of Black Mirror, or the film Her.

Sometimes I pretend that I watch Netflix for research purposes for my writing, but I think Black Mirror actually fulfilled that precise intention. In any case, I do try to watch and read things that I think might be similar premises to my novel, so I know what's been written and done before, and how novel my idea actually is. So far, so good, but you never know...

While we're on the topic of alternative realities, there is also the Brazilian dystopian thriller, 3%. When I first started watching it, it was automatically set on the English dubbing, which looked so incongruous with their lips, that I initially thought it was part of the technology available in their reality. Like when the President was making his speech in Portuguese, the audience could hear it in English because it was translated into their language of choice in the transmitters in their respective ears. Turns out it was just my Netflix settings....

I think the twist that happens in the eighth and final episode of the series, of the... caveat for joining the Offshore, was really interesting 'cos it adds a new dimension for it to be a requirement. I thought it might have made more sense to reveal it earlier to create an intrigue with the audience, but then I suppose it also works that we found out at the same time as the participants, because they didn't know what was at stake, either. It's almost like we shared the same sense of betrayal and internal conflict that the participants would have felt at the blindside.

Also, once you find out, the little clues that they let slip up to the finale become sort of Easter eggs that fit together with the reveal. If you do watch it, please watch it in its original Portuguese language because the English probably loses some impact (who watches stuff that is dubbed in a different language, srsly? :/).

Love is one of my favourite things in life, if not my ultimate favourite. It is also one of my favourite Netflix original series. It's set in Los Angeles, and that alone wins hands down. They go around Echo Park, Eagle Rock, Silver Lake, DTLA, Topanga, on the Metro, farmers' markets all over, and the landscape is so familiar yet so distant, that I love seeing it all over again.

It's a love/relationship story formed between two rather dysfunctional adults, and so basically it's really relateable for everyone who watches. I love Love, it's funny, sweet, and features all the feelings that you get when you're just starting to get to know someone new, and all the kinks and hi-jinks and friction that occur even though you're both trying so hard....

It reminds me of a dialogue from (500) Days of Summer that goes like this:
"What happened, why didn't they work out?"
"What always happens --- life."
In season 2 of Love, they sort of do work out, don't work out, work out again, but life always happens, and that's love, too.

The three final and most important shows available on Netflix are Dear White People, Trevor Noah's stand-up show, Afraid of the Dark and Hasan Minhaj's stand-up show, Homecoming King.

Dear White People exists in two formats on Netflix, one its original film, and then the television series. One of the first few lines in the movie is “Dear white people, the minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has just been raised to two. Sorry, but your weed man, Tyrone, does not count.”

I think the TV series is much better, possibly 'cos it's better expanded and elaborated, but the film is a great crash course if you don't have eight hours to spare for the TV series (but you definitely need to try). It's about a mixed half-black, half-white girl who has a radio show, called Dear White People, to deal with the issues of racism present in her college.

If you are the type of person who believes that racism was long gone from the very moment slavery was abolished (or that racism doesn't exist in Singapore), then I'm sorry, this is exactly the show for you.

There is one precise scene in which the college kids are partying, and everything goes innocently (or at least as much as a college party can be), they're playing drinking games and it's all fun up till the cops are called. When the cops arrive, of course they decide the cause of the commotion is the black student, and when the black guy (Reggie) decides that it was unfair for the cop to have asked only him for his ID, he gets a gun pointed right in his face for "not cooperating". This college kid, who's one of the smartest kids in the room, who didn't ask for trouble, gets ID'd and put at gunpoint. That scene was done to perfection, and it sums up pretty much the state of racial relations in the US.

I love the sarcasm that Sam White (radio show host of Dear White People) uses, and I love how every single black character was not a token black character, but a person by themselves, because truly, black people don't exist to serve as your "I'm-not-racist" token friend, they are people. I feel like I understand to a little extent how they feel, because in Singapore, Malays and Indians make up the minority whereas the Chinese majority here are sort of our parallel for white people.

I mean, I don't have people asking whether they can touch my hair (I swear to God if I were a black person with black hair getting asked this, I would punch someone's face) but one time, someone Chinese (a friend's parent, who thought it was... well-meaning? IDK?) said "oh, Sarah, you're quite pretty for a Malay girl", and I'm like, hold up, was that a microaggressive comment to end all microaggressive comments? Did you just think you were complimenting me by putting down my entire race??

Also, you can see that most beauty bloggers or influencers or celebrities here are Chinese, and obviously their beauty standards are not mine, because we don't look the same, we have different skin tones and different features, and it SUCKS that because they are the majority, everything is catered to them.

Wait I didn't mean to hijack the Dear White People section. Where was I? Um. If you want some top-notch crucial edutainment, please watch Dear White People, Afraid of the Dark and Homecoming King. They handle race issues with gracious wit and humour, so hopefully if you're a white person, you would no longer feel offended by the fact that you aren't allowed to "blackface" (gist of it is: being black is not a costume, you don't get to "wear their skin" for one night and soak up the laughs or the glamour of being Nicki Minaj, then not live with the hardships she had to go through because she worked harder to get where she is, on account of being black).

Also: I guess all three are light-hearted enough for the audience to just feel enough empathy for victims of racism, through relating to their experiences, without being too preachy about it. It definitely provides more humour and amusement than I can explain here.

Man I could go on forever. Another reason why I thoroughly enjoyed both DWP and Afraid of the Dark is because the protagonist of DWP is female, and Trevor Noah is woke enough that he has some feminist issues he jokes about. I would tap Trevor Noah again and again and again. Blogger doesn't have the 100 100 100 emoji, Blogger why can't you keep up with the times tho. (Also: Trevor Noah has a sort-of cute good-boy face, does he not? Is it just me?)

Afraid of the Dark and Homecoming King are my favourite stand-up comedy shows so far, along with Ali Wong's Baby Cobra. If you're in need of some laughing therapy, I highly suggest any or all of the three. People of colour, y'all are what's up!!!!!!

/ twenty-seven:

I turned 27 three days ago, and Han joins me in being 27 tomorrow. We've spent 15 years celebrating our birthdays together, which means I have spent more birthdays with her than without. Today, I have twenty-seven years (and three days) of experience to guide me to become the person I was meant to be. I am fortunate enough to have been born in Singapore, one of the most developed cities in the world. The cognitive dissonance that follows is that we have an overly paternalistic government that doesn't trust its citizens, not even to chew gum. It's like we're North Korea pretending to be USA.

I have a slight light-skinned privilege, although not enough. When I was younger, maybe in kindergarten, I realised that most of the kids were Chinese, and spoke Chinese. I learned from young that I'd fit in easier and better if I spoke Mandarin, so I did. I thought it was cool, and other Chinese kids thought it was cool. The positive reinforcement worked, so I began to pick up and speak something that I wasn't being taught to speak at home or school, but now I'm twenty-seven I wonder if it was worth it not paying attention to my own beautiful Malay language. I live in a country where the "elite schools" are majority, if not fully Chinese-enrolled. There is a lot to unpack and navigate for me, in terms of race, gender and identity politics. But I am, as the young kids would say in these times, woke. I don't have to struggle with basic necessities, so I struggle with a "higher" order of needs. Most of my problems are honestly first world problems.

I think about things that privilege prevents many from thinking about, because they don't go through such things in life and don't have to think about it, and they are not curious or motivated enough to want to put themselves in anyone else's shoes to think about them. I understand that racists can have friends of different races and token friends are a sure sign of racism. Playing the "but my best friend is black/Malay/Indian!" card does not in any way exempt you from being racist. Many sexist, chauvinistic men have wives and girlfriends, so yeah, they could be capable of loving or showing love to one woman in particular (if at all), but still not want to liberate women as a whole. Similarly, you can have a best friend from a disadvantaged cultural background but never lift a finger to forward the causes of their race/identity.

If you look at the sidebar of this blog, I have listed a few of my favourite things. I like adrenaline rushes, and I got driven through the canyons by a racing demon, I went to Six Flags in Santa Clarita with Han and we took all the extreme rides there, I've done the reverse bungy locally with her several times, I skydived with my favourite cousin Hazwani in New Zealand, and I did a proper jump-off-a-board bungy in Malaysia with my family. I also love the high of concerts/music in crowds, and I've been to watch some of my favourite acts live. Being in the mosh pit by myself for Muse was an orgasmic experience, Jason Mraz is always so chill and positive (the second time was a treat by another of my favourite people, Sha), I watched Ed Sheeran thanks to the generosity and selflessness of Shereen, who gave up her ticket when we were right outside the theatre 'cos I couldn't find anywhere else to even buy any at the last-minute. I went for Taylor Swift's 1989 with three of my best friends in life. Recently, Coldplay proved phenomenal, in terms of music and light display.

Love and friendship are my favourites, and I am blessed, extremely fortunate to have love in my family, and friendship in people who are pretty much like family. I have had strangers from opposite ends of the world take care of me, while barely even knowing me. People in my life and social circles who have stuck with me through the worst, and also allowed me to see the best that the world has to offer. I don't have to name them, they are mostly mentioned in the previous post, or featured on my Instagram, etc. I love to read and write, and I have been granted the ability to write such that people actually enjoy reading it about as much as I enjoy writing, and for that, I am humbled and eternally grateful. I love to travel, and made (hopefully) lifelong connections all over the world. I've seen how people live in India, China, LA, New Zealand, Australia, etc. My best friend and I got to watch the sunset from a yacht at Marina Del Rey, such a film-worthy setting, rather like many of my experiences in life.

Finally, a form of love and relationship I always have space in my head and heart for is my affinity for words, and therefore it makes sense that every time my birthday comes around, my favourite thing is to read long, lovely wishes. As I've said, Huda is one of my kindred spirits in terms of love and our shared love for words, and so as a matter of course, she included a book excerpt in her wish for me this year. Did I not tell you that (I'm not like that: Avril ref, anyone?) she and I have exchanged thousands upon thousands of words via email exchange, in real life, in text?
Life hasn't been the kindest to you, and I wish I could have done more throughout-- I know I could have-- I wish that life would have treated you better, gentler-- but I also know that everything that has happened has changed you and made you the person that you are, the Sarah Mei Lyana that I know and love today--.

I've been reading a book called The Course Of Love which I think you will enjoy. Here is an excerpt that reminded me of this mad friendship:

"There are other ways to look at love. In their philosophy, the ancient Greeks offered a usefully unfashionable perspective on the relationship between love and teaching. In their eyes, love was first and foremost a feeling of admiration for the better sides of another human being. Love was the excitement of coming face to face with virtuous characteristics.

It followed that the deepening of love would always involve the desire to teach and in turn be taught ways to become more virtuous: how to be less angry or less unforgiving, more curious or braver."

I think we learn from each other in ways that many shallow friendships do not, that crazy as our lives are we take from it what lessons we can, and try to teach each other in the best way we know how.

There are so many things you have taught me: how to be unapologetically me, to pick myself up after every fall, to love and to love and to love against all odds, relentlessly and unfailingly, to be loyal and to stay true. To yourself, and to the people around you. You have taught me to stand up for myself more, to recognise my worth, to know when I deserve better-- and I will always be grateful.
I think Huda's birthday wish to me is my favourite so far in all my 27 years, just like the cake that my colleagues got me on the eve of my birthday a few days ago, has my favourite message I've ever had on a cake. Whenever my colleagues ask what I want to eat, I say "dick", because I have a dirty mind at most times, sexual innuendos are some of my favourite things. I think and hope this will never change. The cake they got me had the message "Eat a D" and I! Love! It!!!! Photos on Facebook.

I am different from anyone else that I know, so it makes sense if I want different things in life. I have to keep bearing that in mind, anytime I start to think that I don't have what other people have in their lives.

Today I am going to go all out in enjoying myself with my best friends. This morning, Han and I had a birthday pool party, by ourselves. Tonight we'll be watching Captain Fantastic by the beach (it's called Sunset Cinema, all of us lounge around on deck chairs, pretend to be worry-free and watch a movie projected on a screen, listening through wireless headphones, get on it) and have a sleepover together with Atiqah and Shahida.

And then tomorrow it's back to the daily grind. I have a lot of hustling to do. I'll check back in with y'all sometime in the second half of the year. In the meantime, stay safe, so much love, always, Sarah Mei Lyana. xxx

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

STORY OF MY LIFE

I've decided to start over. Previously, my friends and family members would say that everybody in my life knows everybody else in my life, by virtue of my blog. I also managed to get myself and several people in trouble, over the years, because I have virtually no filter and would share everything online. In this new and hopefully improved online persona/platform, I'll try and keep photographic evidence as well as personal details to a minimum. This will be done mainly out of respect for the wishes of my social circles; I generally don't care what anyone thinks of me. To new readers/people I have only recently met in life, I am about to ramble on about my almost-27-years of life. Some of the stories are anecdotes I'm fond of, others will be more like lessons my younger self had to experience for my current and older selves to make wiser decisions from, hopefully. It doesn't always seem to be the case and history does tend to repeat itself, but one can certainly try to do better, and to be better, than the past.

Before I embark on this journey of words, I'd like to make a little disclaimer of sorts. There are certain characters that could have been mentioned but didn't quite get to be. I think these people are living their own colourful lives and cannot be reduced to mere descriptions in mine, I wouldn't know where to start and end. Being the people they are, I have no doubt they will individually go on to touch other people's souls with their stories.

I don't have very many fond memories of growing up. My father had a terrible temper, he was emotionally abusive and occasionally physically berserk. He used to be a flight attendant and I remember wishing he would spend time away instead of with us. I don't know if that's normal for a child to feel, but I should hope not. I spent many days, weeks, months and accumulative years probably, crying or wondering why my mum was crying, or both. When I misbehaved as a child, my father would shout at me and make me stand on my chair in restaurants, to shame me. As a result, I rarely, if ever, misbehaved and even now am a sucker for propriety and having well-behaved company in public. A particular memory that stands out to me, as if a neon sign, was when my father was angry at my mother, and he smashed the windscreen of a car she had either rented or owned, I don't quite recall which. I also never found out what he used to smash a car windscreen. This was when I realised my father had anger issues, that his anger was not a normal kind of anger.

To add insult to injury, perhaps rather literally, my father could not (or would not) be faithful to his romantic partners. Sometime after my parents had my sister (whom I frequently say is my favourite person in the world and whom I will dedicate more than a few words to, later), I became aware that my father also had a son with another woman. The lady wanted my father to marry her, he didn't, and therefore she didn't allow him or any of us to see my half-brother, not until he turned 18 a couple years ago and asked to meet his father, so we started meeting him. My sister's birth and first year of life, as well as my parents' divorce, are events that are murky in the timeline of my memory, I don't know which came after what. I do know that my sister was much too young, she never experienced having our father as a father. She only knows bits and bobs of what happened when I or my mother or both of us decide to regale my sister with stories of our survival and how we lived to tell the tale. My sister and I, as well as both our parents, are all very melodramatic people, as you might probably know, if you interact with any of us personally.

I don't know if I'm oversimplifying things or overcomplicating them but I have trust issues with the men I date. I think, considering my father had flings and human beings take our fathers as the exemplary male figure, subconsciously there is a tiny irrational part of me that believes men are only using me for my physical qualities and will not be loyal if they are attracted to someone else.

I suppose, given that I started off by listing such things about my father, you might think I don't perceive him to have any redeeming qualities, yet he does. He was and still is the more open-minded of my parents. He would allow me to speak my mind, he's friendly towards people of all races, sexual orientation, religious backgrounds, etc. I think I'm more accepting towards people who are different from me, without ever wanting to change them, because I first saw my father doing the same.

Furthermore, my father didn't grow up in the healthiest or conducive of family environments, either. I'm not saying I excuse all his flawed behaviour, but I suppose I could say I understand where he was coming from. Emerging through my adolescence into early adulthood thus far, I have always been fortunate enough to have the most supportive of social circles. In my day and age, I was able to share my thoughts and feelings online and receive words of encouragement or solidarity from like-minded individuals. My father would probably not have benefited as much as I did, just for being a man, given that men are not really given the space to express their feelings and what they're going through. I want to acknowledge that even with the avenue of offloading my issues onto multiple listening ears, I still carry a lot of baggage within me. My father, I would assume, repressed a lot of his own experiences because it was what was expected of a "boy/man", and so perhaps his anger at everything he witnessed and lived through, manifested itself in ways much more amplified and hurtful than my own.

This is part of the many reasons I turned out to be quite a feminist. I think that subscribing to a dichotomy of what is and isn't acceptable male/female behaviour is harmful to everyone. I especially believe the idea of masculinity to mean you don't talk about your feelings to your "bros", or that guys can and should only just "suck it up" instead of seeking help or advice, is genuinely toxic, because emotions are a human feature, not a female trait. I am aware that I wasn't always such a proponent of allowing men to behave in whatever way they are comfortable in, as much as I've always vocalised feminism as allowing women to do and be whatever they want to do or be. I've tried to unlearn and am still slowly unlearning what I've been conditioned by society to believe. To perpetuate the notion that qualities traditionally perceived as "weak", like crying, or "strong" to mean shouldering all burdens by yourself, is unhealthy for both sides; men and women should be able to cry if they want or need to, or should be able to be the breadwinner in their families if they want to, and neither behaviour is weak or strong, in and of themselves.

After the divorce, my mother had to hustle hella hard to support myself and my sister. My father was supposed to pay alimony for us as his daughters while we were still minors, but for some reason, he never really got his shit together, and he wasn't able to keep up with his financial duties. Another demerit point against him. I remember him always defaulting on hundreds of dollars in payment for months on end, and my mother would get me to guilt him into paying, because they weren't on good terms and could not settle things by themselves. If you ever get a divorce after having kids, please don't do this to them. Please do not treat your children like pawns in a game of chess.

Anyhow, while my mother worked as a police officer, my maternal grandparents took care of and raised my sister and I. My maternal grandparents are the best kind of people and the best grandparents. They bought me a tiny tricycle and my late granddad would bring me on walks, during which time I'd be cycling my little tricycle. My late granddad also bought me my first musical instrument, a keyboard, and I enrolled in keyboard lessons in primary (elementary) school. They were the sort of grandparents who would always slip us little amounts of money for us to treat ourselves, and they tried their utmost to shelter my sister and I from the dysfunctional arguments between our father and mother that happened from time to time. My late grandfather was fond of writing and was a man of words, he would always type on his vintage typewriter (though at the time it wasn't vintage yet), and I think one day when I'm affluent and not paying off ridiculous bills and trying to sustain myself, I will get myself a functional typewriter.

My late grandfather was a teacher by profession, and back in those times when Singapore wasn't all that modern and teachers weren't supposed to receive gifts of monetary value on Teachers' Day, his students would give him tins of chocolate, and condensed milk and all sorts of food and home essentials, and for so many years, I kept hearing praise being heaped onto him. I loved him so much! My grandmother is a homely woman, she's on the timid side, she's never been on a rollercoaster or travelled by herself, she doesn't know how to cycle. Sometimes she sounds wistful about not having received an English education, and she's shy about speaking English to us and her other grandchildren, but she's the most adorable and the mellowest and the most generous, and the kindest and most patient of people. My maternal grandparents are the actual loveliest people. There are two things that strike me as most important, in my opinion, about my late granddad: one of them is he spent a lot of time counselling and talking to at-risk delinquents at the secondary/high school he taught at, and the second is that, when I was sitting for my examinations that would determine which secondary school I'd go to, he told my grandma and mum not to let me pick the school that he taught at, even though he taught there, because it's a sort of ghetto/neighbourhood school. I didn't know he said this until he'd passed away, and I've always wished I hugged him more often when he was still alive.

I don't know if you've heard of cousins being your first best friends, but one of my best friends is certainly my cousin, Hazwani. Of course my other cousins and the entire family are awesome, great people but Hazwani and I were born in the same year, and we're both girls, so it was just convenient for our parents to raise us together. We wore the cutest matchy overall outfits to the zoo, we had sleepovers and pretended to film silly "cooking shows" together, watched Disney movies like The Lion King on repeat. One of my favourite travel memories was when Hazwani and I went to New Zealand and she, her friend Amy (whom I then became friends with) and I danced to Sara Bareilles' Brave at Re:START Mall in Christchurch, which is made from shipping containers, after the earthquake there. We also skydived in NZ, and stayed in a jail-turned-hostel. Having Hazwani as a childhood companion, it's always easy to share thoughts and feelings with her since we've each always known the finer, intricate details and drama in our lives since the start, so there's no need to sort of fill in the backstories. We are part of each other's backstories.

In primary/elementary school, I had a best friend. Her name was Nadirah. We were like two peas in a pod, and on a few occasions, we had people asking whether we were sisters. Dirah and I liked Britney Spears, we danced to N'Sync and BSB, we had our first crushes on boys together. I really loved her and our friendship. Unfortunately, we lost touch after moving on to tertiary schools, and I find that if I don't meet up with people, I tend to offend them because I'm vocal, and opinionated. Unlike people whom you meet in your day-to-day life, that you can get coffee for or a meal with or whatever, people who just see my status updates or online posts without interacting with me in person, can start to dislike me based on my views and mindset. I don't quite know or recall what it was that made us sort of fall out, but I suppose perhaps we were just meant to be friends when we were young. She seems to be doing well for herself now, and I'm really glad for that.

I know, when we were best friends, that her parents were protective of her, and she was an only child, but her mother had had a miscarriage and she was supposed to have a brother. At that age, when I was... I dunno, 8 or 9? I hadn't really had any notion of a miscarriage because no one in my family had experienced it or talked about it to my knowledge, so that child-me was wondering why it seemed to be such an issue. Fast-forward sixteen, seventeen years later and this bit me right in the ass, and I began to completely understand how much of a trauma it could have been, and probably was for them. This also brings me to a lesson I have to keep reminding myself of: that everyone has their own individual journeys in life. I took more than a decade to get around to understanding and fully empathising with one person's perspective. I want and need to be more aware that if someone doesn't understand my feminist point of view, or if they don't agree with different sexual orientations, or if someone is being microaggressively racist, or they just don't have the same set of beliefs at the same point of time that I do, it doesn't necessarily mean they will never get there, or even that I should expect them to. I have to be patient and much, much less judgmental because I cannot expect anyone who hasn't been through the same experiences that I have, to feel and think and believe the same.

In high school, I became best friends with four girls: Atiqah, Hanisah, Shahida, and Syafiqin. At certain points of time, I was closest to Syafiqin, perhaps because we had the least respect for conventional values. Syafiqin, or Fiq, was the funniest, she was in drama club and she had a flair for entertainment. She's very artistic, she draws beautifully, and she always had a knack for photography or designing her own things like bags or shoes. We loved to get sushi together. I mention Fiq in the past tense, because it was very likely that she cheated on her partner, and then used us as covers, although we were her best friends and could (should?) have been trusted. I have never forgiven my father for his cheating tendencies, despite him being my immediate blood relative, and I must say I'm not inclined to ever forgive anyone I know who cheats. However, Fiq also seems to be doing well for herself, and I wish her all peace and happiness.

Atiqah is studying to be a doctor at Duke-NUS, and if I could have even half her tenacity, I would have accomplished so much more in my life, and then some. On rare occasions, I wish I could be her 'cos I would say she has had it easiest in life: she's stunningly gorgeous, she's got brains enough for two people, she comes from a rather stable family unit, and has never struggled with finances, because her parents are prudent savers, and have taken care of things for her and her siblings. Having said that, Tiqs has never lacked for compassion, although she is pretty much superior to me in all ways. I love that she's dependable, and when I went through my biggest trauma in life just months ago, despite being busy with her doctoral exams, she took time to meet me late at night, to lend me a listening ear. Her advice to me was sound and rational as an adult, yet taking into account her understanding of me as a person, making me realise she could really read me and empathised with how I would have handled things. She is a friend in need, and I am beyond proud to be friends with her.

Hanisah (Han) is my foil. She is the brains to my heart. She's an engineer for SIA, and she's always keeping me calm and logical while I devise new ways to jump into the first adventure I see. You know that recently popular comic strip where the brain character is always trying to keep the heart safe while the heart figure is off chasing butterflies or something? Yeah, I think we're like that. She keeps me safe and sound, and yes I bashfully admit that I typed that as I listen to Safe and Sound by The Civil Wars/Taylor Swift. One of my favourite memories with her has to be when I was shopping for a prom dress for my polytechnic graduation night. I stubbornly squeezed into a dress (with a long train) that was a size too small for me, 'cos they were out of my size, but then it was way, way, waaaay too tight, I could not breathe, and I couldn't even hold my breath long enough for Han to unzip me for me to get out of it. I was literally dying from lack of breath, but the two of us were doubled up in laughter in the dressing room, we were wondering if she should get a pair of scissors to cut me loose, all the while I was legit struggling and praying for air. I think Han and I are equally important to each other: I push her to do things she might never do because she's thinking too much about it, whereas she pulls me back from things that she knows would eventually hurt me.

The last of my best friends within the same high school clique is Shahida. One of the things that I think is most striking about her is that she got a degree in accounting but then decided it wasn't what she wanted to do, so she made a brave move and became a teacher. To me, this is super admirable 'cos I find that sometimes, people think their lives are dictated by society, or the impression they might make on other people, but that didn't stop her from doing what she felt best doing. Shahida is one of the more caring, kinder people I know. Apart from my cousin Hazwani, she visited me often when I went through my traumatic episode, bringing food to my workplace and making sure I was eating. We have this thing about food being our love language, because we both grew up with grandmas who would shower us with love in the form of homemade food, so Sha's always buying or preparing food with love, or treating me to meals, and I always feel cherished by her. I also see the way she loves and thinks of her family members, and I feel safe knowing that I'm one of the people she cares for. She's conscientious and puts careful thought into how she treats each person, for example trying to think of what to get for a gift, I know she's always looking out for clues, or whether something would fit into a person's philosophy.

While I went on to polytechnic and made new friends within my cohort, I also found my favourite thing from the internet: Noorhuda Amalina. I will forever be grateful to the internet for Huda. She and I used to have blogs about our teenage lives, and we would visit each other's blogs and tag each other's boards. I remember unique blogskins being all the rage, and I had one which I was so proud of, it was one where it would start off as a blank page, but if you type, say, "entries", then the entries portion would appear. It was all coded to appear like html, and it was so cool, at the time. Anyway, despite Huda and I having gone to the same high school and always lurking on each other's online platforms, we never became proper friends until we'd both graduated from Anderson, and I thank God for this friendship. Huda is my geeking-out friend, one with whom I can have conversations about what it means to be a Slytherin, and Gryffindors being foolhardy and brave just for the shameless self-promotion of it, we can ramble on about Spring Awakening, or Hamilton: The Musical and making up even more embellishments about these once-upon-a-time actual living people. However, as a Muslim, she allows me to pour out my existential-crisis thoughts to her, and try to rationalise my beliefs or lack thereof. We also get up to a lot of heartbreaks about boys, and we have loved, again and again, and will possibly always love, again and again. She understands my feelings, as she feels them too. We are the kind of people who have said, multiple times "I will love this man for all time, and never let go of it, I will never let go of him" but eventually still gone on to love new men, new boys, new people, in the past six years or so. I honestly pray for her to be in my life, always, because she's been so important in getting me through the worst of my lows, some of which I will expound upon in time to come.

In polytechnic, I joined the debate club, and I loved it. I wasn't actually very good at the debating part of it, but it did help me with my thinking. The one thing I learned from debates was to never stop questioning why, and I never stopped, indeed. My mother says I am very argumentative, but I don't take this as much of a negative that she intends it to be. :P

My close social circle in polytechnic was made up of Pearlyn, Cuifen, Andrea and Tim. The four of them were crucial, because at that time, everybody was starting to become adults and move on to adulthood, but I'd always been left behind in the personal development area. I think it's got to do with my childhood, I didn't appreciate seeing all the ugly things that happened between my parents that forced me to never really be a child, so as I left my teenagehood, I still tried to grip very tightly to some form of immaturity and not growing up. I think they saw me through my adolescent decisions and stuck by me, and tried to always nudge me back to responsible forms of life. Tim has been the best guy friend anyone could ever find, and I always feel blessed to have the best friends ever. He always tolerated my nonsense and bitchiness while I was PMSing, he would refill my waterbottle or get me food while I was curled up and ordering him around like the bitch I was, and he's helped me out of very tight financial situations. I honestly appreciate that I have stable role models to get advice from and to use as benchmarks/guidelines for what on earth I should be doing with my life at any point of time.

At the same time, I had my first boyfriend. We were together for just over a year, and on hindsight (because hindsight is 20/20) we should have broken up way earlier than that. I must honestly say I don't think I actually really loved him, I think I just liked the idea of being in a relationship with someone and it was very comfortable. I feel like many people possibly make the mistake of staying too long in their first relationship, because they want it to be the right one, like wow, my first love is also real love, but I don't know, I don't think it's common or realistic to expect that to happen.

After we broke up, I had my second boyfriend, whom I think is the only guy in my life so far whom I have actually loved that also actually loved me back. I met him in the debates club, and it was cute because in the year that he was president of the Temasek Polytechnic Debates Club, I was the vice-president, and there were a lot of inside jokes about me being his vice, etc. I remember very clearly how it all started.

We were in a club, for an event that was part of an overseas debates tournament (technically it was over a bridge 'cos it was in KL, Malaysia), and there was loud music, very little light, and I was in heels. Somefreakinghow,  I tripped over something in the club and fell right into his arms, that were outstretched at the last minute to save me. It was literally me falling for him. It amazes me to this day. I felt really embarrassed 'cos yknow, I was all dressed up and looking sophisticated and yet I couldn't carry myself in heels. The start of our relationship was quite rocky (to be honest it was rocky throughout), he tried to dissuade me because it would have been complicated (and it was), he was staunch Christian Chinese and his parents would not have approved of me, 'cos I was Muslim-Malay, though this mattered more to him than it did to me. This has been a running theme through the guys I date, though, I tend to go after men who are or seem unattainable to me, I don't know if I don't actually believe in true love or healthy relationships and I just wanna break my own heart??? In any case, we still loved each other, very much. We cared for and took care of each other, and were each other's best friends. We took long bus rides together, talked about anything under the sun, he was very patient with me. In fact, I would have to say anybody who stays in my life for the long run, has got to be very patient, because I'm stubborn and recalcitrant and temperamental, and I fluctuate wildly between being crazy in love and not believing that anyone could love me because I'm... quite broken and impossible to deal with.

Sometime in my late teens, my mother battled breast cancer in its third stage. When we first found out, my sister Lyssa didn't talk to my mother and me for months, I think, because we didn't tell her initially, and she was extremely upset. She was in her early teens at that point, and my mother was not optimistic about her odds. It was a tough time in our lives, my mother had remarried and had my two half-sisters with my stepdad. Two of my mother's four daughters were under the age of ten, one was going through teenage angst, and I took turns with my stepdad to accompany her through the nights when she'd stay up being sick and heaving from chemotherapy. It seems distant now, but when we went through it for two years, every day and night felt like it would never end.

I had a very strong infatuation with a guy called Khalis a few years back. He was a year my senior in high school, and I had always had a crush on him. He plays drums, and I'd always liked drums and wanted to learn to drum, so I began asking him out. He's a funny guy, and always so cool. He was studying architecture at NUS (and is an architect now), and he's also a dancer, so I went to watch a production that he choreographed, and I've always been in so much awe of him. I was his biggest fangirl. It was the weirdest thing, I put him on a pedestal, would not bring him back down and had such intense feelings. Because he's a funny guy, and also very smart and rational, when I went through low periods in my life, like when my mother was going through chemotherapy, I would ask him to cheer me up. Then for months/years, I started intermittently whining about the tumultuous semi-relationships that I'd get in, and listening to Taylor Swift, and it wasn't until I went through last year's trauma, and told him about it, that I feel that he seemed to think "oh shite, now we're talking" which amuses me, and if it's true, I don't mind because there's some sense to it. Khalis is here in my life story to remind me that infatuation is not love, and I have to tone down on my intensity. Sometimes I look back on my memories with him, and I think "what is wrong with me????" and want to bury myself somewhere, but mostly I get really grateful that he was a friend throughout.

Circa 2013, I wanted to take part in a social media contest, but it had to be a duo, and so I approached a classmate from high school, Pamela. We didn't do all that well for the contest, but I will forever be glad we joined, and became close friends after that. I sort of place Pamela along the same lines as Tiqs, she's pretty, well-to-do, intellectual, they've got it all. Pamela has also worked really hard to make it on her own terms, though, she's never been one to rest on her laurels. I would confide in Pam the.... um... details of our escapades because for all its supposed modernness, a lot of Singaporean society still are conservative in terms of sexuality and physicality, I think the trendy term would be slut-shamey. I love Pamela because for one, when I went through the episode of Daniel Grayson, she really helped to pull me out of it, and was a voice of reason when I was feeling vindictive af. For two, when I went through my latest trauma last year, I got to go on a getaway back to nature, thanks to her help. For three, she's tried to prop me up in terms of professional opportunities, and I will always be grateful to no end, that she doesn't think twice about levelling the privilege she has by pulling me up alongside her.

Speaking of Daniel Grayson, here goes nothing. I usually refer to him as Daniel Grayson, the way comic book villains usually go by their full monikers, like Harley Quinn or Lex Luthor. I also fondly refer to him as Graysonuvabitch, to my closer friends. Two years ago, I'd just been healing from being strung along by another guy, who's actually rather inconsequential in my life except for leading me to the douchebag Daniel. D and I shared pretty much every single detail about our lives, he was a very charming, witty man, he geeked out about Ke$ha and Taylor Swift, and allowed me to geek out about Swifty as my guilty pleasure, etc. I told him I had trust issues because my dad was a cheat, he offered words of solace and empathy. The worst part was that I fully trusted him, he reeled me in hook, line and sinker, and we were pretty much lovers in the full sense of the word, before I found out he was engaged to a woman back in Charlotte, NC. What the hell is wrong with people in this world?????? I was really broken, for the first time in my life I felt truly used. I mean, you would think after finding out the details of my life and my beliefs as a person, the least he could have done was leave me alone, and move on to some other scumbag with whom cheating could have been consensual. BUT NO, HE HAD TO USE ME. Motherfucker. Burn in hell.

So anyway, when I found out Daniel was back with his fiancรฉe in the US, it was at the start of the fasting month of that year, and I felt weak and empty. My stomach was the literal pits, and I called Huda and cried and did not move, and my sister Lyssa came and hugged me for the longest time, just to hold me together.

Towards the end of Daniel Grayson year, I got a Facebook message from an account I did not know, who told me to advise my father to stop soliciting for sex from his girlfriend. My father, the one who had fathered a son while married to my mother, got divorced, remarried a kind, lovely woman, and had three kids with her. My youngest half-sister was not even six months old, and she was born on Father's Day of that year, and still, my dad did not stop straying, not even on account of having already had six kids. When I asked him about it, he said "I didn't think you would find out." *upside down smileys forever to no fucking end* When I found out about this, my thought was "no wonder Daniel Grayson happened to me! I'm getting all the karma for my dad!" UPSIDE DOWN SMILEY PARADE

But this is also why I think, if you do it once, you will do it again. I never trust cheats.

And now we come to the year of The Best and Worst Time of My Life, also known as 2016. I went to Los Angeles, for the second time in my life, and couchsurfed for two months. This means that I stayed in people's homes for free, on the understanding that if they ever travelled to my home country, I would host them if I was able to. I highly recommend couchsurfing because it really allows you to see the kindness and goodwill of people and what they are willing to offer you, even when you can't do much for them in return, besides perhaps washing their dishes. I've been fortunate enough to have travelled to a variety of countries, I've seen New Zealand, which is a place of real beauty, and I've met people from all walks of life, by virtue of debating and the many different things I've dabbled in for work. Los Angeles holds a special place in my heart. I don't know whether it's the entirety of the USA, or LA in particular, because I haven't ventured outside California, but I always felt I belonged there. When I express my desire to live outside of Singapore, certain people naturally counter with "but Singapore is such a clean city! it's got working public transport!" but I don't feel like life should be about feeling safe and comfortable.

I feel restless in Singapore, because it is not a place that promotes questioning, in fact quite the opposite: the government loves sheep, and robots, and people who are happy being safe. I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong with that, but I do know I'm not built that way, and I cannot feel happy living that way. I know this is human nature, for one to say they hate being told what to do, but I think there are different measures of how much one detests it. In the US, or when I speak with Americans, their base philosophy is always "let me be happy the way I want to, don't tell me what to do" and I identify with it strongly. Of course I don't romanticise it to the extreme, I know it will be hard for me to earn an income, probably, and it will be a lot of hustling to survive, but when it comes down to it, I think it'd be much more worth it if I'm happy hustling there, instead of being comfortable here, but never really being allowed to be who I want to be, or do what I want to do. Life isn't and shouldn't be about money.

So, anyway, I met many incredibly and outstandingly nice people over the course of my stay in the US. I wish I could write each of them a chapter and I probably will one day, in a novel somewhere, but this is about my life story, and nobody has changed my life story the way Joey has. I stayed with him for about a month, and it was the easiest, simplest thing as it unfolded. He trusted me, and I trusted him. He allowed me to live in his home while he carried on with life, going to work on a daily basis. I went to house parties with him, we raced in the canyons in his Mazda RX7, or on his spanking new Triumph, that he purchased with me being completely cranky and hungry by his side. He works at SpaceX, so he took me on a tour of the facility, which completely blew my mind, because how many Singaporeans do you know have been on a tour of SpaceX? I only know one, and that person is me.

I fell in love with Joey. I felt safe with him. I wrote while I lived there, and I figure his brainy faculties would have been exerted hard during his working hours, so we kept each other company with working on his cars, or while he watched rocket launches on Youtube and I read books by his side. We shared some giggles when his friends said weird stuff to each other, and Joey and I would give each other a sideeye and think "what weirdos". Before I left the US, I posted an Instagram photo with a caption that included "Los Angeles, just as I have left parts of me all over you, I will always carry you within me." The post is still there, if you would like to see it. At the point, I wasn't consciously aware of what had happened, so I didn't know how literal my caption actually was, but perhaps, my brain knew, because when your body is going through something like that, your brain has got to have signals to prepare the rest of your body for it, right?

When I got back to Singapore, I found out some very surprising and unexpected news. I consulted my friends, all the ones mentioned above, and then some (I really wish I could talk about all of them individually but again, they've got their own stories, they're going to shine). The choice was taken away from me because what happened, happened organically, before I even made a confirmed choice. I think a lot of the trauma came from how my mum reacted to me when she found out, because she's sort of religious, ever since going through cancer. She said she felt guilty because of me, and in a way, all I've been feeling since then, is guilty. However, I learned a lot from the experience. I now realise that if I do want to be a parent, there are certain safety nets that I should be able to provide for my kids. I haven't actually been very upfront or using the actual technical terms in this paragraph or the last, because my mother does not want me to talk about it. This is where I say my father is more open-minded than my mum.

In any case, I'm looking for a counsellor because I think there's a lot of.... stuff I've repressed. I started having panic and anxiety attacks at unexpected moments, and I don't think it's natural to let them continue without seeking help.

So. All that has formed my life story.

I have one more character to talk about, and it's my sister Lyssa. She is my favourite person in the world. By virtue of being sisters, she understands me the way no one else does, because we see each other almost every day, so words that mean nothing special to anyone else, set us off on laughter. She's extremely intelligent, but she lacks self-esteem. She has trust issues too, but she's even worse than I am, she never used to believe in love, possibly because her early foundation years were spent without her actual father fulfilling his duties. She's a science person, whereas I can't science at all. Sometimes when our younger sisters ask a scientific question, perhaps about buoyancy and whatnot, Lyssa looks at me to see if I'm able to answer the question, but I never can, afterwhich she sniggers and provides the answer. I think she's my favourite, because she used to look up to me (she doesn't anymore, I don't think) and it gave me purpose. She used to believe everything I say. I also think she's a little bit of a mini-me, in terms of mindset, wherein she's a feminist and a bit of social justice warrior. I don't know if that would have happened if I wasn't her sister, but I don't see the same lines of thought flowing through the rest of our cousins, so I hope part of it is really my influence. It's sort of practice for raising a kid, having younger siblings. I'm really proud of her, because in recent times, she's been the mature one, being strong for me, and holding me up and putting me back together. We've gone through the worst of times together, and we've had the best memories together too. I'm super glad Melyssa is my sister.

This story is actually mostly for Lyssa, 'cos she's always asked me to write about my whole life as one continuous story.

I must add, having written and read all of that, my life hasn't been too shabby. I haven't been too shabby, I hope. I keep telling myself, I'm proud of the person I am. I might be intense, and overzealous, and gullible. I like myself this way. The only reason I've been taken for a ride multiple times, is 'cos I trust people easily, I wouldn't hurt anyone intentionally, so I always give others the benefit of the doubt that they wouldn't hurt me, either. I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of, of loving too much, too easily. Almost-twenty-seven years of life, well-lived, I would say. On hindsight, I wouldn't change a thing. For the time being, I'm saving up so I can be a responsible, functional adult, before I can leave for more travels and life overseas. Sometimes, I really wish someone would just front me $20k so I can take a break and write my novel for a year, or something. But I know life doesn't work that way. J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter while she was broke and was a single mum with a toddler. If she can do it, so can I.