Thursday, August 23, 2018

NEVER ENOUGH

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

all the shine of a thousand spotlights

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

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


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

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