You Got My Ears Itching

You know a song is indie when you can’t even find it’s lyrics on the net.
I’m back to writing after a long hiatus. Things have been so full of shit recently, I don’t even know where to begin. But it’s okay. I’m picking up the pieces.
It’s the Lunar New Year again. A new year means a new beginning. Unlike most people, I don’t like going back for the holidays. Each year, the town seems a little deader. Streets are emptier. There’s none of the hype you see on TV : no firecrackers at every street corner, no lion dances, no screaming children. Old folks linger at coffee shops, staring morosely out at passing cars that pass them by like glimpses of dreams. This is Ipoh, once a gem in it’s heyday. Now it’s just another forgotten memory, slowly but surely fading away.
I dread going back every year. Reaching home on New Year’s eve, greeted by the sight of a house full of old people, can be a little depressing. When you’re young and full of life, death seems so far away. But to the old and weary, death is just a knock away. Grandpa’s 85: he’s senile, and he wets his bed. Watching him spoon mouthfuls of food with a shaky hand, watching Grandma totter around on her cane to go the bathroom, makes you wonder why we were created this way. Why does the body have to degenerate before we die? Why not just drop dead when you reach a certain age? That way you’d do everything you wanted to do before your body leaves the world.
You’re born, you live, you get old, you die. Life is a cycle.I believe in respecting old people because one day I too, will grow old.
Which is why the actions of some of my relatives really pissed me off to no end. During reunion and the customary ‘lou sang‘ to symbolize prosperity and advancement, my grandparents were jeered at for wanting to partake. “Let the younger ones do it, you people don’t have anything to advance anymore, anyway,” was what one of my aunts said. Seeing my grandma put down her chopsticks in disappointment, even if I wasn’t her granddaughter, would have stirred pity in any stranger with a heart. Imagine bringing up a daughter for so many years, only to be repaid with spite and annoyance. A few of us younger kids felt uneasy and we said it was okay for the old folks to join, it was just a symbolic thing anyway. If I’m gonna do well in life it’s coz I work hard for it, not coz of some ritual. But said aunt insisted that the old folks were not to take part.
Life’s a cycle, aunt. Do not forget. One day you’ll be old and you’ll be the one shoved aside, being left behind, being thought of as a nuisance like how you think of your own parents. And nobody will be there for you if you continue in this frame of mind. Nobody’s gonna be young forever.
Another thing about new year’s…
New Year’s to me is like putting yourself up on a petri dish, to be scrutinized in microscopic proportions under the looking glass, subject to disapproving comparisons to better first cousins, second cousins, and relatives to the fourth degree.
“So and so is doing so well as an accountant overseas now.. earns (insert 5 number figure in foreign currency here) each month, lives in this big-ass apartment with 2 dogs and an even richer boyfriend… “
“So and so is taking her bar exams now, going to join a prestigious law firm soon I guess…”
“Oh, so what do you do Ris? You work for a magazine?” (raises eyebrow) “What do you do there?Write? Ah, uhm, that’s good.”
“Writers don’t earn much, do they?”
“Must be tough.”
“Can you afford the loan for a Myvi with your salary?”
Make no mistake, I don’t feel inadequate. I knew when I took this path that it was never gonna be easy. In an Asian society, or any other society for that matter, writers (unless you’re award winning, a best seller or filthy effin rich) are never looked highly up to. We’re not lawyers, we’re not doctors, we’re not businessmen. People think of writers as dreamy people, lost in their own world, lost in the words they love so much. We earn MYR 2 for every page of material written. Yes, being a writer won’t earn you big bucks, a bungalow, or that brand new Porsche.
Unless maybe if you write about emo vampires that sparkle in the daylight?
But I write because I love words. The first thing I grabbed in my chubby little baby hands was a pen. I might not be the best writer out there, but I love what I do. And I’m happy, even if it means I forgo what modern society calls luxury and comfort. I don’t need a 10K mattress, I just need 2 or 3 comforters and a pillow to keep warm all night.
Why do we feel a need to compare ourselves with others? Only the insecure do that. Being an academically inclined person in high school, I was always living to the beat of other people’s expectations. Straight As for Mom, straight As for dad. After graduating, I was to take an accountancy/law course of some sort. That was one of the times we had a big fight. I’ve always listened to what my parents wanted because (I’m Asian) respecting elders is something that has been drilled into me from a young age. But this was just one thing I couldn’t compromise. I didn’t want to hate them for the rest of my life for making me take something I would be miserable doing in future. Even today, mum still thinks I made the wrong choice. “You have brains, it’s a waste you took this course.” When even your own parents have this ‘writer’s are shyt’ kinda mentality, it’s hard to feel encouragement. It feels like the whole world is against you, like they’re waiting for you to screw up even more royally than just the ‘bad’ choice you make, so that they can thumb their noses in your face and say I told you so. But here’s the thing: if you’re talented and you work hard for what you want, I believe that you can be great at what you do no matter what you studied in school. School’s a playground, the real world is ruthless. Studies are nothing when they throw you out to be eaten by wolves.
One day I just woke up and decided IDGAF anymore. Being the best to someone else was always so tiring. All my life I’ve been trying to be someone to somebody else.
I want to be myself, for once.

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