Monday, December 31, 2018

SAME AULD LANG SYNE

As the year draws to a close, it would be remiss of me not to mention the people who have made my year, my year. This year I feel like I kept learning and relearning the meaning of family, that chosen family is just as important as blood-related family, that what makes a family is what you choose to do to support one another. I want to mention first and foremost the people whom I'm actually related to by blood, the three sisters I used to live with in my household. I forget how lovely it is when we all took turns to buy each other ice-cream when one of us was crying over a boy, or using the "my vagina is bleeding" card to demand hot Milo (this is a yummy drink that I'm slowly starting to miss) and other things. There were times when y'all truly surpassed my expectations, my decade-younger sisters and my bbsis, telling me you'd spend half an hour a day with me to have sister time, to watch anything I wanted, so I would not feel so depressed or that life held no meaning for me. I will always love you three. My mother, the only one I have, I do think it has been a tough but monumental year for us. I think she'd been raising me the way she was raised, and I didn't challenge it until very late in life, until I realised I don't want to live with values I don't believe in, and it was very hard on both of us. I do see that she's been trying, the whole of this year, to let me be the person I want to be, despite her own thoughts on the matter, despite the flak she might face from others among our closed-minded community. It is not easy to be my mother, but she has made some effort this year, so I am grateful for that. My cousin Hazwani, who is by blood my cousin, but if I'd known her some other way I'd want to make her my sister and chosen family too. To have a peer who understands the pressure I have from within, but who's level-headed enough to give me advice like a friend, to have someone who knows me well and is close enough to justify getting me a pink typewriter for my birthday, I am eternally indebted to her for juggling familial and chosen-family duties. To my best friends, Han, Sha, and Tiqs. They don't usually read this but they're so good at reading me. The ones whom I've spent collective hours and months battling in wit and composure. When the four of us would engage in conversation about refugees or war, or HDB prices in Singapore, or potentially any area of controversy, and there's always an antagonist, and yet we always somehow manage to see past our different perspectives and be able to share about and gain knowledge from our vastly different lives. Thank you for keeping my brain on its toes, thank you for always being there to catch me when I fall. I would trust you three in a trust fall anyday, you have got my back. To every single person I met at LUSH, I have no words. There are too many of you, and I want to adopt you all as my children. I want to thank Aileen and her team (can't say my team no more *bawls*), for making sure work was a safe place for me, whether I was seeking solace from my house or from boy troubles. If I could, I would write a book about our Question(s) of the Day. LUSH Vivocity was the first workplace I felt I truly belonged to. Everyone else I met through Lush, via social media or events, I'm also glad we crossed paths and you each embodied an aspect of LUSH that I was initially drawn to. To my constant cheerleaders, Pamela, Viv and Chloe. Three of you have probably never met all together, I remember you all being at different birthday parties of mine. One thing I cannot take away from is how much each talk means to me, whenever I meet y'all one-on-one (or Viv with Andrea), I again felt relaxed enough to talk about anything on my mind. Thank you for believing in me, for cheering me on, for knowing me as a human being with strengths as well as flaws, and allowing me to be. Each of you has something very deeply admirable at how you approach life, the chutzpah you display, the manner in which you love, and I am deeply in awe. My circle of friends from polytechnic, I didn't get to meet very often this year, but somehow they always make their love for me felt. Somehow they knew, from the very first day of school, that I was the misfit that did not know how to navigate life, this duckling that needed monitoring, and somehow they've pushed me through every step. Pearlyn, Andrea, Cuifen and Tim, I'm super glad life has taken y'all where it has, and y'all will forever be my signposts of how to be relatively functional adults in society (or at least I can pretend to be). Bhavs, Ekta, Irene, and Shereen, all four Indian Goddesses I met from debates, all four I don't meet often enough. I know none of us has enough time in our adulting lives, but thank you for the chais, the pani puris, the ayam gulais, when I came over or went out with y'all. I love being the token non-Indian friend, I love indulging in your colorful clothes, I love your hilarious stories about dramatic families that all come from a core of heart and warmth. I love the connection we make, knowing from background experience that people can have families that are batshit crazy, but turn out to be wonderful human beings full of compassion, kindness and empathy. I want to thank Ben, Zack and Adam. They are all men I have dated, but that also means they are men I would be fiercely proud to be platonic friends with. For every seven female friends I have, I think I have one male platonic friend. Currently, my male friends are Zack, G, and Tim. That's three. I generally gravitate towards women because I do think women are much better human beings and they are great at empowering one another, or at least the ones I know are, which is a thing sorely needed when the patriarchy is out here to divide and conquer us. However, as said by Tina in the previous post, men are socialised not to have feelings, not to express their feelings, not to talk about them, except within their intimate romantic relationships. If men don't get exposed to people talking healthily about their feelings, they are never going to learn to do so, and both genders stand to lose out, in friendships as well as in dating, as well as just as a society. I guess what I'm saying is I would appreciate having more male friends to normalise the fact that men and women can without a doubt be platonic friends (it is still quite an astonishing idea in the pseudo-conservative Asian culture, so yes I indeed have to express it). Having said that, Ben, Zack and Adam all helped me feel okay at certain times of the year. I would spiral and they would remind me it is okay, it is human. Thank you for caring for me so much, for giving me advice on dating, for reminding me that there is hope for men. Thank you for putting aside the dating and complicated histories, to ensure that I as a person was heading towards something healthier, in terms of therapy, of moving to a place I would belong. Thank you for being my solid pillars of support and rationale. I must thank my therapist, without whom I might literally have done something bad to myself. She meant my life to me. And finally, I want to thank Tina, for helping me end 2018 on a lovely girl friend note and to start off 2019 on a good one. I'm already in New York, let's do this.

THE FAVOURITE

I've been friends with Tina for about two to three years, we got to know each other through a feminist women of color group on Facebook, and I'm glad upon meeting up, to know that we have much more in common than just being feminist and Asian, because I've been able to feel a proper friendship growing between her and myself.
Tina: Sean and I normally just lay around but I thought it would be good for you to get out

Sarah: Yeah i think so too, i think i will have to be around people and that would be somehow better than not being around people, even if i'm still a little bummed

Tina: I always feel like there’s a delicate balance of being in your own head vs staying out of it when life upheaves itself
Tina: I’ll poke around and see if I can find a good bar!

Sarah: Okay thanks Tina, and i read a really nice post today about female friendships and i thought, hey even if i'm not spending it with a romantic spouse this new year's, i would gladly take being with a potential good girl friend
Sarah: You might like this
Sarah: http://jemmawei.com/2018/12/20/2084-to-all-the-girls-ive-loved-before/

Tina: god I wish I could find it but I saw a post not long ago that has heavily been on my mind
Tina: About feminism, and how stereotypical gender dynamics hurt everyone. The piece itself was talking about emotional intimacy and how women are very fluid and aware of our emotions. We’re socialized to be one with them, to talk about them, to fully feel them. Women can be emotionally intimate with anyone, man or woman, platonic or not. We can talk about our feelings.
Tina: But that’s not the case for men. A lot of men are socialized to not feel fully, to be “strong”, and the only time men are emotionally intimate are in romantic relationships.
Tina: It talked about how this leads to the confusion when a woman views a friendship with a man as platonic and a man assumes because there’s emotional intimacy, that it’s romantic. Both people get hurt when those relationships come to a head.
Tina: It’s why women can cope with heartbreak better, and snap back, because they have other means of emotional support outside of romance.
Tina: But men don’t. It even talked about articles citing that if a husband dies first, the wife tends to live longer than if the wife dies first.
Tina: I have just been thinking about that a lot lately and how that means
Tina: In a way I haven’t really talked about with other people before
Tina: You almost have to be more delicate with men  if you think about that context
Tina: Which yeah
Tina: We should be delicate with everyone we love
Tina: But it just made me think about all my amazing female friends
Tina: And the different men I’ve been with who’ve pinned too much on me
Tina: And I’m sure you can relate, anyways I’m rambling
Tina: How are you doing?

Sarah: I totally relate, and i know it wasn't your intention but i just started tearing again at your texts, because they are true, but also because yknow, i'm inclined to crying every few hours in this period of my life.. but i've been coping as best i can, i watched something light-hearted, i showered and have been having my meals, etc
Sarah: I'm trying to remember to allow myself to feel, because i know it will help me heal

Tina: It sucks to cry, but it’s important.
Tina: Sometimes when I’m having a really bad time
Tina: I’ll walk around the city and just cry
Tina: And it’s kind of nice because you’re alone but you’re not
Tina: it’s very important to just
Tina: Let the pain out and let it breathe.
Tina: ❤

Sarah: ❤

Tina: the one thing I can tell you is that
Tina: No matter what happens
Tina: It’ll be okay.
Tina: Okay always comes.

Sarah: I do believe it
Sarah: Thank you Tina ❤

Tina: Well I’m glad you live here
Tina: And I’m so looking forward to what I think will be a most charming friendship

Sarah: I'm glad i live here and you live here too, and i also do look forward to something special unfolding and bearing in mind all the things we've been reading, put in effort and care into nurturing our friendship
I do want to cultivate some healthy platonic friendships as well. I also just registered myself for therapy, so. Fingers crossed I get along well with my assigned therapist.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

HOW TO LOVE

As a child of a dysfunctional family, I am not an entirely healthy individual who knows how to show my love. This is both a reason and an excuse. I know there are some ways in which I am capable of love and of loving, I accept people and make them feel comfortable when they are not at ease with other people, I forgive most shortcomings, I remember small details and cater to each person's needs and wants when the occasion calls for it. There are ways in which I am entirely maladjusted and unsuited for love and loving, though. I have been honest about my mother, and my father, and various men, and I've always tried to hold each person accountable for what they've done leading up to the person I am now. I know it must be tough, my mother reading my words about her and feeling like she's not a good-enough-mother, that she hasn't done a good job, that she's failed me. It's time I applied that same accountability to myself. When I was growing up, I wasn't shown healthy examples of love by a person's first and primary role models, my parents. They were almost always fighting, but somehow through the hysterics and histrionics, they would make up and stay together. As I learned recently, my mother engaged in emotional guilt to control me, which she thought was love, so I thought was love. My father says he loves his six kids, but there are still oddities with his behavior and responsibilities, especially financially, that I can't get past. It is not a love that I see from other parents and well-adjusted adults. Having grown up accustomed to such examples, on the rare occasion that I do find myself in a healthy relationship, I am not immediately cognisant of the fact that this healthy, smooth, stable relationship that makes me happy is one full of love. I demand more, I want a larger-than-life sign that this person loves me. I push them away, I second-guess their actions and intentions, and I even compare them to other people because in my head, to make up for the lack of love in my early past, everybody must pour in heaps of love for me, to repair all the damage done, but that is of course, not an onus on anyone else, but myself. In my head, I think, if I cause trouble in this relationship, and they still accept me, that is real love. I asked Adam for a break-up yesterday, because I was anxious about my own life here, and it was pouring into our relationship. I am a social creature, and I haven't made that many friends, so I felt mopey and depressed. Adam tried to help me by suggesting some of his friends that he thought I would get along with, but I said I didn't need his friends as pity, I just wanted to whine and for him to listen to me. Everything that he did for me was not enough, and it must have been exhausting. After having asked for a breakup on the whim of my anxieties and insecurities, I asked him to take me back. However, while I was at his place, he decided he could not handle it anymore, and he had a panic attack. This was at midnight, where I Googled how to help him through it. He was hurt and upset and angry at me, and I understood it, but I sensed that he was still not letting me see him at his most vulnerable. I left his place to come home, once he said it was really and truly over, and as I walked down his apartment building, I heard him sobbing in his shower. It was only then I realised, how selfish and callous and blind I'd been, that while assuming that I was the only one who had mental health issues to attend to, I'd forgotten he has them as well. That he's a human being with feelings and stakes in the relationship, that everything he'd done for me was out of love, and I responded with wanting and needing to be loved. As a person who's been hurt by so many things in my life, I am very rough and sharp around the edges despite having a warm, gooey center. I am as capable of causing as much pain as I have received, and I don't want to be this person. I want to go back to therapy while I'm here, to remind myself to be kind, to be kind, to be kind. I went to sleep a few hours ago, and then I dreamed that he called and said it was okay, and that he had forgiven me. I woke up realising that reality still hurt and I had to face my consequences. I want to do better and to be better, but if I am to be brutally honest about other people about their flaws and shortcomings and expect them to improve themselves, I have to start doing the same for myself.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A TEEN

This year, I saw a therapist for eight sessions, I think. I miss her. Unfortunately, thanks to strange rules in Singapore, we weren't allowed to exchange numbers (my sessions were all recorded on tape), but if anyone knows Sonya from JCU Psych Clinic, please tell her I miss her and she's the best person for me to have met this year. I made some solid friends at my job, and many of those friends I consider to be my family members. They were supportive when they had to be, they gave me the leeway to settle myself when I was unbalanced, they checked in on me when I needed it. I was a bridesmaid for my cousin's wedding and was an emcee as well as a bridesmaid for one of my best friends. I got a tattoo, and it was the first time I did something I wanted while solidly disregarding my family's approval and anyone else's impression of me. I got into a short but very solid relationship, with a man who's sweet enough to remind me that he's also in the city and is a friend should I ever need him. I moved out of my mother's house for the first time in my life, a move that according to Westerners should have happened ten years ago, but to Singaporeans is a damn feat, because we don't move out until we get married, and a lot of people still stay with their parents even after marriage, because there is a lack of land in Singapore, and apartments are therefore extremely expensive. Additionally, if you move out before you get married, somehow it signifies to your family that you don't love them and are not filial (like it did with mine, go figure). Not only did I move out of home, I moved to New York. I went to the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday, which was Christmas Eve, and I saw a man propose to the wild delight of his girlfriend. She cried and kissed him passionately and said yes, and everyone else there cheered them on. It was the first proposal I'd seen in my life. This is the New York I have always dreamed of, and this is what keeps me alive. This year, I met a man whom I'd been talking to for a year, and we got together as a couple two weeks after he picked me up at the airport. I was exhausted when I arrived after a day's journey, I'd had some trouble at immigration, and I was dragging two huge suitcases worth 50kg (which is almost my own weight) and I couldn't see him but he took me aside at the point I was ready to collapse. This year hasn't been the smoothest, it was indeed the year when I realised there is something immensely wrong with my mental health and I needed to seek help. I received help for a couple of months, and I would like to continue healing when I've settled in here. This year, I met and made friends and got close with more good, well-meaning people than the opposite, and I have received so much love, an abundance of real love from people near and far, and I would like to wish you all peace I've received this year. Happy merry love and joy.

Friday, December 21, 2018

+1

After almost, I dunno, three weeks, I finally met the people who live upstairs in the same apartment as me! I live in the basement so I go through a different door, and I don't know what their lifestyles and times are like, so somehow we'd never seen each other. I'm gonna cook something Asian, though, as a moving-in peace offering to them. So their dog, that I've been hearing but never seen, is a schnauzer-poodle, whose name is Pepper. I haven't seen Pepper but she sounds super cute and sometimes she just, out of the blue, scrambles around, I think. My housemates are Paula who's a designer and Jackie, who's a producer. Given that being gay is not as big a deal here as it is in Singapore, I don't know whether Jackie is a she/her Jackie or a he/him Jackie. Paula seems nice enough. She said "don't be a stranger" so I guess maybe I'll be a little bit more friendly from now.

Yesterday I cooked ayam masak merah, which is a quintessential Malay dish, and gave some to the people who work at the pharmacy down my cross street. I'd seen them in my first week here, and Tanisha asked me questions about Singapore and I stayed there for half an hour answering her questions. I'd promised her I'd cook something Malay for them so I did so yesterday, and Tanisha was so surprised I actually made good on my word she gave me a hug. I was in a rush to get ready for dinner last night, though, so I didn't stay to ask her/the other pharmacists what they thought of the dish.

I went to Kurt and Rachel's housewarming last weekend. Kurt is college buddies with Adam, and Rachel is best friends with Adam's ex, who was also at the housewarming. I tried to make eye contact with his ex to smile at her, but she would not look at me, I don't know if it's 'cos she thought I was always beside Adam, or whatever. As far as I know, they didn't end on the worst of terms, but I don't know. I mean, I didn't wanna be friends or whatever, I just wanted to smile at her. Sometimes I think I do things that are totally out of the code of conduct, but I guess it's just me. I don't see why you shouldn't be nice to your significant other's ex or your ex's future significant others, we both liked the same person, that must mean we have more in common than you'd think, right? Also, given that I am the Malay-Muslim girl who shunned her Malay-Muslim practices and have pretty much turned my back on "Malay-Muslim" customs no matter how much my community says they are "praying for me", you can tell I'm not one to follow traditions for tradition's sake. Adam took me out for an early Christmas dinner last night, 'cos he's going back to his parents' house for the week ahead. We went to Milk and Roses, and I had the best lamb ribs I've ever had in my 28 years of living. It was so delicious, and done so well, Adam broke his "no-sharing" rule and ate more than one bite of mine. I am happy. Happy holidays, y'all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

PINK IN THE NIGHT

It hits you in the ways you don't quite expect it to. Yesterday, instead of watching The Good Place on my Netflix account like I did in Singapore, I watched the latest episode on NBC, because it's not available on Netflix here. Because it was on NBC, I had to watch the ads that were screened and slotted at certain points of the episode. I watched ads about Botox for migraines and fire tv, and car commercials and toys and UPS services, and I realise they were all new to me, we don't have the same services in Singapore, and things aren't marketed for similar purposes, and every single packaging is different. I felt so overwhelmed, I had never heard of fire tv before, and suddenly everyone here is using it. It was a sensory overload, and I needed much more time to process everything I was and am learning. If I mention all the services that I know of from Singapore, nobody here would know any of them, and all at once, I felt like an outsider. It was such a surreal experience, to feel like that from TV, of all things.

On my first weekend here (which was already two weekends ago, wow) Adam and I went for brunch, where I pointed out to him that many people here are overwhelmingly on the good-looking/attractive side. It's not even my attraction to white people, people here are Hispanic and Asian and Middle Eastern and God knows where else they're from, but they're all so pretty or handsome and have got such strong features. Adam looked around and he agreed, and he said perhaps he hadn't noticed it as much because he grew up here and he'd gotten used to it. I told him I felt a little intimidated and I didn't know why, but then of course, he says very honestly to me: I think you put a little stock into being attractive, and in Singapore, you felt assured by having looks, and it might feel like if everyone here is good-looking, then you don't have that much to offer --- but people don't like you because you're pretty, they like you because you're funny and sweet.

For all the trashy men I've gotten involved with, I think Adam negates all of the negativity and gives me hope for the male species. That's saying a loOoOOot. Ok bye.

Monday, December 10, 2018

WARM BODIES

I don't know what everyone else is aware of, but sometimes I learn things much later than other people, based on the fact that I've been quite sheltered from the real world for much of my earlier life. I wish I knew everything that everyone else knows, this is a thing that I really do wish. I wish I knew as much music as Adam does, I wish I knew engineering and nuts and bolts like my best friend does, I wish I knew how to be patient and understanding and how kids work like my friends who are teachers. When I was spending time with Adam, I suddenly felt a strange feeling, I didn't want to tell him, because I was anxious that it meant I wasn't ready to be dating him, or that he would take it to mean that way. I started tearing a bit, and despite being overwhelmed by my feelings and not wanting to face them, Adam coaxed me to communicate. So I told him, I had a thought of missing Joey, whilst I was right there with Adam. Adam held me in his arms and told me it was okay and understandable, that the last time I was in the USA was with Joey, and being in the US evokes similar feelings in me, and yeah, I did like Joey a lot and for me to feel similar things while I'm with Adam that I did with Joey, makes sense. He said, we're not just our thoughts and feelings, and it's human to have very strong feelings about significant others, past and present. I went from feeling nervous and anxious, to extremely comforted. This is the man I feel safe talking to about what I think makes me a basketcase. We met his friends at a holiday get-together on Friday, and they were just as funny and warm. If you've been following my Instastories, you'd have also seen that he cooked chicken pesto linguine on Friday, and steak last night, for us. I know it's a thought that's been expressed before, but I feel it now: he's so familiar it feels less like we are getting to know each other, than it is like he's always been part of me, and we're getting reacquainted. I don't know how I can explain why it feels that way. We watched La La Land last night, and he liked it and appreciated it, maybe not as much as I do. I love La La Land the way Sebastian loves jazz, but I'm glad he finally saw it with me, and he likes the score and the colors and the old-timey feel. Next up, Hamilton! Adam is now my boyfriend, hehehehe what a lovely word to roll off my tongue. What a lovely Christmas present. I have something solid and healthy with someone who keeps me solid and healthy and so very happy, and I wish you all nothing less. Don't be afraid to catch feels!