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Why It Can Be Hard To “KonMari” Your Stuff

This month has been pretty bad for blogging – it’s already the 17th and I’ve only made two posts. Partly it’s because Malaysia is currently undergoing another ‘lockdown’ due to the rising number of cases (and deaths, which is worrying), so I haven’t been able to go out much; but it’s also because I’m in a writing slump again.

We had a four-day weekend for Hari Raya, but celebrations have been subdued as people have not been able to go home to visit their loved ones, some for the second year in a row. As for my fam and I, we took the time to rest. My mom has been very worried throughout this entire pandemic, and with cases on the rise, she won’t even let us go out to buy food unless it’s absolutely necessary, preferring to cook all of our meals instead.

But enough gloom and doom – I did something productive over the break, ie cleaned my workspace!

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I am currently working from home full-time, so having a proper workspace is important. But I’m also not the most organised person in the world and my workspaces (even when I had an office) tend to get messy with bits of paper and notes. To tidy up, I took some of my books to the shelf outside so there’d be more space, wiped down the dust, and put away smaller accessories that were contributing to the clutter. Also gave away two Apple mouse units that I’ve been keeping for the office (company told me to get rid of them coz they didn’t want to ship it to Singapore, but I didn’t want to throw them).

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While cleaning up, I sorted out my accessories and trinkets, thinking to throw away the older ones that I no longer use.

I ended up keeping everything lol.

A couple of years ago, there was a lot of hype over the KonMari method, attributed to Japanese consultant Marie Kondo. In her approach, Kondo advised people to keep only the things that ‘spark joy’, and let everything else go.

The thing is, all of these things have sparked joy to me at one point in my life, and in some small way, they still do. I still feel nostalgic and happy when I look at them and think back on the memories associated with each object. I know some people would call it silly and sentimental, and maybe it is, but it’s also vulnerably human.

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Some people enjoy collecting fridge magnets or keychains as souvenirs from the places they’ve traveled to. For me – and I did not realise this until I looked over my ‘collection’ – I apparently enjoyed collecting accessories. Some of these were given as gifts, which makes them even more meaningful.

On the left is a bead necklace that was gifted to me by my hosts on a trip to Siniawan, aka the Cowboy Town of Borneo. The ‘town’ is really not more than a dozen traditional wooden shoplots along a main street, a town hall and a nearby temple – but I enjoyed the experience tremendously. I got to ride a sampan across the river (which has crocodiles, by the way!), experience a Gawai festival with the local Bidayuh community, eat amazing kolo mee that was just RM3 ffs, and take in the sight of a gorgeous pink sunset for a few nights in a row.

On the right is also a bead necklace, which I bought from Auntie Sina Rang at the Bario longhouse where I was staying. This trip was an unforgettable one because I got stuck on a hike for 11 hours in the Borneo rainforest, and the longhouse residents were so worried they sent a search and rescue team because it was already dark and we were supposed to have been back like 6 hours ago lol. You can read about it here.

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Me and my fellow members of the media before everything went to hell (for me).
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Hardcore hiking
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Siniawan, the Cowboy Town of Borneo.
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Also from the Bario trip: woven bracelets which I bought from a visiting Penan tribe. They are nomadic and only come to the longhouse occasionally so it was fortunate timing!
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Coconut shell bracelet from a 2014 Bali trip. It was my first time visiting Indonesia. Since then I’ve been to Bandung and Yogyakarta. Can’t wait for the pandemic to be over so I can travel, to different parts this time.

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Decorative necklaces from Venice, from my 2012 graduation trip to Europe. Venice was gorgeous in is own way, but it was also extremely crowded with tourists, and the canals smelled. Still glad I got to see it in my lifetime, before the city sinks.
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A brooch from Fuhu, Genting. Also a Sarubobo doll from Japan, which Japanese grandmothers make for their grandchildren for their safety and wellbeing. On a trip to Tokyo, I got to write my own well wishes for the sarubobo’s clothing and pin it onto the doll.
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A Catholic necklace with wooden crosses and a carving of Jesus, which I got from a shop outside Antipolo Church in the Philippines. I was there with my ex on Ash Wednesday, and it was interesting to see the rituals and sit in on mass. I didn’t get the necklace because of religious reasons, but because one of the ladies manning the shops insisted we buy something, I didn’t know how to say no lol.

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A necklace inspired by Aboriginal art. Got this from the shop at Tower Hill Reserve in Victoria, where we saw a bunch of koalas hiding in trees, and encountered a rogue emu blocking the van that we were travelling in.
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Of course, travel memories aren’t the only things that makes it difficult for me to throw stuff away. I also have a lot of random accessories that I have fond feelings for – like these wooden bracelets. One of them is falling apart, but I can’t find it in me to just dump it because it was my favourite bracelet to wear in college and through the early years of my adult life (back when lots of accessories were a thing).

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The evolution of my earrings – from a sharp, rebellious-looking stud in my college days, to the ‘elegant’ ones that I wear for social outings today. By today I mean like two years ago, when we could still go out for gatherings. lol
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And other, assorted bracelets.

So you see, it’s not easy to KonMari your stuff, when there is so much to reminisce on each time you look at them. I think this is also why people find it difficult to let go or throw things away. They are all reminders of a happier time, and form a part of your life’s story.

I guess I’ll be holding on to some of these things for a bit longer.

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Celebrating Chinese New Year In The Middle Of A Pandemic

Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year, is set to fall on 12 February this year. It marks the beginning of a new year according to the traditional lunar calendar, and heralds the arrival of spring. 

Here in Malaysia, Chinese New Year is a pretty big thing, since people of Chinese descent make up more than 20% of the population (about 6 million people). If this was any other year, CNY decor in malls would have already been up right after Christmas. There’d be cookie displays flooding bakery shelves; Padini/Uniqlo would be packed with shoppers buying new clothes on sale, and we’d all be subjected to the torture of loud, repetitive dong dong chiang music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across all TV and radio channels. 

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Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a pandemic – and like all the other people who made sacrifices last year for Christmas, Deepavali and Hari Raya, it is now our turn to give up the freedom that we often take for granted: the ability to travel home to see our loved ones.

On 13 January 2021, the Malaysian government implemented a second targeted Movement Control Order (MCO), restricting travel to and from red zone states. Workers in non-essential services are required to work from home, travel is restricted to a 10 kilometre radius to buy groceries and essentials, and eateries are only allowed to run on a take-away/delivery basis. Of course, celebrations of any kind are no longer allowed, as are things like weddings and other events. (Adding to the whole hullabaloo is the national Emergency which was declared by our King because of political in-fighting, but that’s for another entry lol.) 

The last time we had an MCO was back in March 2020, and it lasted for two months. Although the current MCO has only been announced for the next two weeks, many people are foreseeing an extension, at least for a further two weeks. With thousands of cases daily in Malaysia (at the time of this writing, there have been over 100 deaths in the last two weeks), most (sane) people understand that this is necessary to break the infection chain and ensure public health and safety. 

Since no events are allowed and travel is restricted, many of us will have to make do with a quiet celebration at home this year. While we won’t be able to observe certain traditions, I think that technology has allowed us to adapt (and innovate) in ways that would not have been possible 20 or 30 years ago – and we can use that to make CNY 2021 a memorable one. 

Reunion Dinner 

The reunion dinner on the eve of CNY is an integral part of CNY celebrations – some even consider it to be even more important than New Year’s Day.Traditionally, it’s when everyone gathers to feast and wish for a prosperous year ahead, whilst enjoying dishes with auspicious meanings (usually fish, pork, prawn and chicken – since back in the days meat was difficult to come by and would only be eaten on special occasions).

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Fam reunion dinner from 2018

The food for reunion dinners used to be prepared at home by the women folk. More than just preparing a meal, it was a way for people to bond. When my grandparents were still alive, the kitchen on CNY eve was a battlefield, and my grandma commandeered it like a general: slicing, dicing and supervising her helpers (my aunties). I kind of missed that after she passed away. In the last few years, eating out has become a trend, since nobody wants to go through the hassle of cooking and washing up for 20 people. Now that there are once again dine-in restrictions at restaurants, perhaps it’s time we went back to the drawing board and rediscover what it means to cook, and eat, together. 

For those who aren’t able to attend the reunion dinner night, I think it would be a good idea to set up some sort of Skype or Zoom call with family, so that you’d still be able to ‘eat’ together –  sort of like what I did with the hubs for our anniversary last year. It won’t replace being there in person, but in these unprecedented times, we have to make do with what we can – and it will hopefully stave off some of the loneliness that people who live away from home will undoubtedly feel during the festive season. 

Ang Pau Mali

Another tradition synonymous with CNY is the giving of red packets (ang pau) containing money to unmarried members of the family. As a kid, I was always super excited to receive ang paus (RM100 was a lot of money for a kid in the 90s). Funny thing though: at the end of each visit, the money would go to my mom, who’d keep it for ‘investment’…. And I’d never see it again lol. (Just kidding, I love you mom.) 

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Now that I’m married, I’ll no longer be on the receiving end, sadly. Under normal circumstances, it’s understandable not to give an angpau if you’re not visiting a particular relative. Unfortunately for married folk, the emergence of e-wallet apps and e-angpaus means that some of us won’t be able to wriggle out of it with the in absentia excuse: your nephews and nieces will probably say, “Aiya auntie, send it through e-angpau lah!” 

In With The New 

People usually buy new things for CNY (especially clothes), as it signifies a fresh start. Many clothing retailers are not able to open their brick and mortar shops, so more have gone online to provide for their customers. You can also find nice clothes on platforms like Shopee and Lazada for super cheap.

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There are pros and cons to shopping online. While it’s certainly more convenient and safer (no hour-long queue to get into the changing room, no fighting with another auntie for the same shirt you both have your eyes on at the sale rack), it can also be challenging for people with unusual body shapes/sizes, since they can’t see or feel the material/ cutting prior to their purchase. (Like yours truly. I have huge… shoulders. winkwink.) If you’re going to buy stuff online, best do it early to avoid disappointment, in case your item comes late in the mail. 

Chinese New Year foods in Malaysia

*Photo: evelynquek, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Buying gift hampers for associates, or cookies / treats for friends and family is another long standing CNY practice, and again, online shopping makes it convenient to have your items shipped directly to the doorstep of your recipient. As for treats for personal consumption, if you have the time, it might be a good idea to try your hand at baking/making your own. If you’re enterprising, you can even make a larger batch to sell and earn some extra money on the side. 

Cleaning / Decorating the House

People often underestimate the importance of decorating one’s personal space to elevate the mood. I believe it’s crucial; not to show off, but to re-centre yourself and your frame of mind. It’s one of the reasons why I wear office clothes even while working from home, because it kicks my mind into ‘work mode’. Lounging in pyjamas all day is comfy, but it also makes me more inclined to go roll around on the bed every 10 minutes. Similarly, just because no one is visiting for CNY doesn’t mean your house shouldn’t be clean and tidy.  

Unfortunately, technology has not yet evolved to the point where I’m able to kick back with a nice cup of coffee and a book, while my robot assistant does everything for me. So, manual labour it is.

CNY in 2021 will certainly be different, but if you put it into perspective, it’s not all doom and gloom. Traditions are meant to be kept and preserved, but if that isn’t possible due to circumstances beyond our control, then perhaps it’s time to innovate some new traditions. 

That being said, McD’s Prosperity Burger is back on the menu. 

Some things just never change. 

If you enjoyed reading this post, consider giving me a figurative angpau. Contrary to popular belief, I do not make big moolah from writing – and this will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!

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The Sales and Marketing Trap – How Companies Get You To Buy More Than You Actually Need

Ah, capitalism. 

No matter how vigilant we try to be against the tricks of the trade, I’m pretty sure we’ve all fallen victim to seemingly ‘innocent’ marketing traps at one time or other. It’s the .99$ promos, the membership discounts, the buy-1-free-1 deals. We think we’re getting a bargain; that we’ve outsmarted the game. In reality, we’re all just suckers in a system designed to separate us from our money by playing on our wants – and turning them into ‘needs’. 

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Case in point: despite being well aware of all of the above, I still fell victim during the recent year-end sale. I didn’t NEED a bunch of body butters in various scents when I already had some at home that would have lasted me for at least two months. I just FELT like I needed them, and because “it would be a shame not to buy them at a discounted price”. But the loser at the end? Me. Because I ended up spending more. Score one for corporations, zilch for Eris. 

So how exactly do companies get you to, in sales speak, ‘go through the purchase funnel’ ? (ie buy their stuff) ?  Let’s take a look: 

Relentless Advertising

Ever searched up something online, then got constantly bombarded by advertisements of related products and services? This is because despite all the assurances of privacy and etc., companies DO collect data about you and your browsing habits – to be used or sold to potential advertisers to create targeted ads. Some websites give you a heads up that they ‘collect cookies’, but it’s all just a show to appear transparent – because many of these sites do so without asking for permission anyway, and there is no way to regulate this. This is probably why you’re seeing a lot of hotel deals on Facebook, after looking up airfares to Langkawi. They can wrap it in fancy terms like  ‘tailoring a more personalised experience’, but I’ll call it what it is: digital stalking. And they’ll keep showing you ads – until you finally cave in. 

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I recently shopped for items on The Body Shop online, since they had a promo and were giving away freebies (another way of sucking you in to buying stuff…coz who doesn’t like free stuff?). For the next few days, I kept seeing ads for body creams, lotions and fragrances. Inadvertently, it weakened my resolve – and I ended up buying more items from Bath and Body Works, which I did not actually need. Was it my fault for succumbing? Partly yes – but that’s how companies target your psyche, and ultimately push you into action. 

Free, But…

Behold the magic word. 

Malaysians love freebies and discounts. It’s the reason why many of us don’t mind lining up for hours on end just to get a free bag which would probably have cost 5 bucks. Was it actually worth it? Maybe not, but hey. It’s free, right? 

But is it really? 

Here’s an example, again from my experience at The Body Shop. So aside from buying online, I also bought from their physical store, to get Christmas gifts for friends. The sales person suggested that I sign up as a member, which would entitle me to a 20% discount. But to be eligible for a member, I had to purchase a minimum of RM80, and my gifts were like RM20 short. I ended up getting body butter for another 80 bucks. -___- 

Did I actually NEED the body butter? No. But my brain basically rationalised the purchase, saying ‘Hey, you got that for a 20% discount!’ 

Upgrades

Related to the above. I also commonly see this at Starbucks, where the barista will ask if you’d like to upsize your drink for an additional 1 or 2 bucks. Question is, do you actually need to drink that much ? Or are you just upsizing because you think that you’re getting much more ‘value’? 

“Unbeatable” Deals

I can’t remember where I read this, but I once came across this saying that companies don’t sell products; they sell FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Buyer’s psychology is such that we feel the need to one-up, to get (or at least believe that we got) the best value from our purchase.

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The sales tactic works extremely well for this. The end of the year is especially brutal, what with the 10.10, 11.11, 12.12, Christmas and new year’s sales. Yours truly can testify, having held out for all of them except for Christmas, and more recently, Bath and Body Works new year sale (bought another body butter and a candle for RM39 each). Speaking of which, the .9 tactic is another way companies make you believe that you’re spending less, and that you’re getting a deal. Because again, buyer’s psychology is such that RM39 seems much more appealing than RM40, despite it being just a RM1 difference. 

While I’m sure many people are well aware of all these little marketing traps, it can still be difficult to resist at times – especially in this day and age where we’re constantly exposed to marketing messages of buy more, spend more. Unless, of course you have a willpower of steel.  For the rest of us, we’ll just have to be more conscious about our purchasing habits, and be more intuitive in our spending. 

Now excuse me while I go apply some of those damn body butters I don’t actually need.

Hello!

If you enjoyed reading this, please consider supporting my website. Contrary to popular belief, I do not make big moolah from writing – and this will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!

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Mid-October Update

Hey guys!

It’s 12/10 and the gov just announced that we’re having another CMCO (for the benefit of my foreign readers, that’s a Conditional Movement Control Order – kinda like a ‘loose’ quarantine but not a total lockdown) in my area: which means no interstate travel allowed, plus restrictions on the operating hours of some businesses, for two weeks. Schools will be closed, as well as parks and entertainment centres. Only two people from each household are allowed out for essentials, and if you have to work across the border (in my case, Puchong – KL) you’ll need a letter from your employer – similar to how it was back in March/April when the whole nation was under lockdown.

I’m not gonna go into deets (because it’ll become a rant lol) on why we’re having a third wave when we were doing pretty okay. let’s just say politicians are shit and they only care about power – as they always do anywhere else in the world. Funny how we ‘learn’ about history and yet take no lessons from them.

Since this blog is mostly about food and travel experiences, I guess I’ll just have to write about other things again for awhile – that is, if I can find the time. As much as I’d like to post and write more often, there’s a crazy amount of work to do on a daily basis. What with pay cuts and staff layoffs left and right, many people who still have a job are forced to take on additional work loads, myself included. It hasn’t been good for my mental health, but I’m trying to power through because I understand that times are hard and no company is a charity case. I might whine about my problems online because it’s the only outlet I have – but at the end of the day, I guess it’s still about getting things done.

I hope everyone is doing safe and well, wherever you are!

Too bad we don’t have autumn in Malaysia lol

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Nurture Your Introverts to Harness Their Superpowers

introvert
noun
/ˈɪntrəvəːt/
  1. a shy, reticent person.

Mention introvert and the image that comes to mind is of a person sitting quietly in a corner, surrounded by a mountain of books. They might enjoy hobbies like knitting, drawing, video games, or going for long walks on the beach on their own.

Extroverts, by comparison, are the ones who are forward and ‘think on their feet’; social butterflies who enjoy meeting people. If these terms ring any bells, it’s because they are traits companies use to describe desirable employees. Everyone loves the party animals, because they’re fun-loving, engaging, charismatic. Introverts, on the other hand, get a lot less love. The corporate world is setup to value speed and aggression, and there seems to be little to no space for introspection.

I am here to tell you why introverts matter, and why companies shouldn’t dismiss an employee’s potential, simply because we don’t fit into the conventional mold of what society deems a quote unquote, ‘good’ employee.

Now, before we dive deeper, let me just put it on the table that I have nothing against extroverts. Extroverts are awesome and I envy them their ease at fostering connections and their ability to bring people together. But just like everything in life, I believe in balance – and I think the world would be a better place if we can tap into the strengths of both extroverts AND introverts.

Many people assume that I’m antisocial, because I’m only good to ‘hangout’ for short periods –  and even then it’s usually with a small and intimate group. This is untrue. I do not hate meeting people. Being an introvert simply means that I need time to recharge my batteries. Unlike extroverts, who get their energy from being around people and bouncing their ideas off others, introverts are like sponges – we absorb information and process them within. Think of a sponge that has soaked up too much water: it needs to be squeezed and emptied before it can be used again.

An ex-boss once told me not to be ‘antisocial’, when I politely declined another glass of beer at an office gathering. “You’re so uptight. Chill lah. Open up,” he said, while waving a bottle of Heineken in my face. “Live a little.” This is a very extraverted way of thinking.  Live in the moment. Enjoy a bottle of beer, preferably while it’s cold, in the company of colleagues. And I’m not saying that’s wrong or anything, but introverts tend to take a bit more time to process things. Mine went like this: Another beer will get me drunk = I will have difficulty driving back home = Endangering others = let’s not have a beer, even if everyone else is and they call it ‘socialising’.  Needless to say, the way he delivered his well-intentioned (?) remark did not help me to ‘open up’. If anything, I grew to dread office gatherings because I felt like a total freak, even when I was trying to socialise with others.

The Value of Introspection

“Spur of the moment” is used to describe something that happens without advance planning. Extroverts tend to have this way of thinking – speak one’s mind / get something going first, then work out the deets later. And while it can be a good thing in some cases, other decisions require deliberate and thoughtful introspection. Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men, is a famous introvert, and has said before in interviews that he often takes time off to do his own research and deliberate on decisions.

In a meeting, extroverts tend to dominate conversations, as they are more outspoken and willing to share,  while introverts tend to be sidelined as they might only speak up when they feel that they have something valuable to add. This might lead people to believe that they do not have any good ideas at all, when in reality, they are simply taking their time to analyse and process the information, before they share their thoughts. If you need someone to create a report or summarise the minutes – I can guarantee you that introverts will excel nine times out of ten, because of the way our minds are wired. Remember = sponge.

Meaningful Connections 

Introverts are often chastised for their inability to socialise or network well. If you base success on the number of people you manage to pass your phone number to at an event, then sure – introverts are probably not as good as extroverts. But I disagree that we don’t connect well with people. It just takes us longer to find that one person who is worth spending our precious time and energy, because to introverts, this is a very limited resource that has to be spent wisely. We may not be naturally charismatic, but it is precisely because of this that many introverts place a high value on their relationships, both personal and professional, and work hard to maintain these r/ships. These deep and loyal bonds can be a great asset to a company, and friendships for that matter.

The Quiet Sweet Potato Is Filling 

The above is a literal translation of the Malay saying, “diam-diam ubi berisi” lol.

There’s nothing fancy or particularly appealing about a sweet potato’s appearance. And yet, this humble root vegetable fills you up. It means that just because someone doesn’t outwardly say or appear to fit into a certain mold, that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything of value to add, or that they’re stupid. The closest equivalent to this proverb that I can think of is ’empty barrels make the most noise’, although it doesn’t capture the simplicity and essence of diam-diam ubi berisi.

There is a common misconception that leaders have to be outspoken, pushy go-getters. This setup means that charming, charismatic people, regardless of whether they can actually do a job well, are often given leadership positions.  I have personally worked with and met people in leadership positions who are all air and no action: nice to look at at first glance, but with no substance within.

In contrast, quieter, less outgoing leaders are usually more focused on getting a job done rather than gaining approval from their employees and peers – which means that they can be more efficient. I have worked with several introverted bosses, and they are some of the best leaders I’ve had the chance to work with. And because their personalities gelled with mine, they understood how to bring out the best in me.

Many of the world’s most gifted creatives and analysts – from Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to Einstein – are introverts. Magic happens in the space between solitude and monotony, because creating a work of art, whether it’s writing, drawing, painting, etc. is often an introspective activity. We may be inspired by our surroundings, but creativity is drawn from within. We are no lesser, nor stranger, than the rest of the world. There is strength in being an introvert, and we should embrace who we are and work to realise our full potential.

Signing off with a very insightful Ted Talk by Susan Cain !

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Patreon?

Hey guys!

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not very diligent when it comes to sharing personal posts or motivational (?) stuff like ‘Lessons I’ve learned from… etc.’  There are a few reasons for this:

A) It Takes A Buttload of Time 

Unlike lifestyle / food posts, which are based on experiences (ie, ‘tangible’ stuff  – you can write about how food tastes, how the service at a resto is like, what went on at an event, etc.) thoughts are much harder to present in a cohesive manner.  It usually takes, on average, a couple of days for me to write a ‘serious’ topic, as compared to a food post which I can bang out within an hour. Oftentimes, when I have a good idea, I run out of steam before it comes to fruition and I end up abandoning the whole thing lol. Also, despite being a writer, I am not the best when it comes to articulating what I feel or think. It’s like running Red Dead Redemption II on a potato graphics card.

True story

B) I Am My Own (Worst) Gatekeeper 

As a former newspaper journalist, self-censorship is almost second nature. Writing and rewriting, reading and rereading each sentence before it is deemed ‘fit’ for publication, is just something that I do unconsciously. But this also comes at a cost: I am often hyper-aware of how some words/ opinions may come off as ‘controversial’… so I avoid writing about them entirely.  I know it’s a shame because this is where discussion stems from, but I dislike conflict, and I feel it isn’t worth the trouble of potentially getting into a fight or getting ‘cancelled’ for my opinions. There are plenty of nasty, spiteful people out there on the net, and I don’t want to see my face Photoshopped over a naked body and uploaded to a porn site just coz someone isn’t happy about my opinions about the new Disney’s Mulan. @-@ There is also the possibility that I might write something a future employer deems offensive and controversial, which might affect my job prospects or other future projects.

C) Separating Content 

Most of the stuff on here relates to food/ travel and lifestyle, so it’s kinda odd that there are random personal posts in them. I want to try and separate the two, because I doubt anyone would be interested in reading about my struggles with anxiety and depression, when all they came on here to find out was how much a bowl of curry noodles from X restaurant costs.

D) Conflict Avoidance 

Perhaps the primary reason why I don’t do a lot of personal posts – is because I don’t want drama. My family reads my blog occasionally (my own fault coz I have them on my soc-med and I share my blog links there too), which has effectively prevented me from sharing too much about my personal life.

I don’t live in a perfect household. I believe every family has problems, and in no way am I saying I don’t love them or care for them. But there are times when I just want an outlet for release – or share my thoughts and connect to others with similar experiences – and I simply cannot do that by talking to them about it. Some might ask, “why are you airing dirty laundry?”, and “why is it easier for you to share things with strangers?” Because surprisingly, many strangers and friends DON’T judge, and even if they do, I don’t care as much, as compared to if it comes from someone close to me. I just want to say my piece, and be done with it. Does that make sense?

Case in point: I once wrote a personal story about my experience during a CNY reunion dinner. An uncle decided it was his place to tell me that “I had a pretty face, but it would be better if I lost some weight.” I didn’t want to cause a scene coz my parents were there, but I went home and wrote a scathing piece on my blog – which somehow went viral (because nosy, rude relatives are a fixture in every Chinese family and I’m sure a lot of people can relate). The BBC even contacted me to write a lifestyle piece for them on a somewhat related topic, which I think was the pinnacle(?) of my career as a writer lol.

But the result was that it somehow got back to the fam. That uncle has not spoken to me ever since, and my mom now uses this as arsenal whenever we have an argument and I say I don’t care (“oh but you do, you wrote that piece about uncle X, didn’t you?”)

See what I mean?

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing Patreon for some time now, because I’m writing stuff on this blog anyway – why not have a dedicated space for more personal topics? So I’ve decided that I’ll be putting up all my personal posts on Patreon. This way, I can write – no-holds barred – and really share my thoughts on things. Maybe I won’t have any readers – or the community interaction I enjoy here on WordPress –  but it will sure be a load off my chest, and I’ll have the freedom to write whatever I want.

I realise this must sound like a very poor pitch – I’ve never been good at sales pitches or asking people to do things – but if you like, please subscribe to my Patreon. I already have a couple of posts and good ideas lined up, and it would mean the world to me to earn a little from this otherwise expensive hobby (been blogging for eight years, never earned more than 400 USD). That comes up to about 50 USD a year, or around 10 cents a day. (If that isn’t the embodiment of the starving, melancholic writer stereotype, I don’t know what is.) But whether or not you’ve been following this blog for some time, or if you’re new, or just stumbled on this by accident, I just want to say a big thank you for spending your precious time to read whatever I have to say. Thank you, and I hope you continue to support this channel, and if you don’t like the content, let me know what I can improve on.

Til the next post!

 

Of Weight Loss, Body Shapes and The Land of In-Between

Hey, guys!

Been a hot minute since I last wrote anything about weight loss and body image. If you’ve been following this blog, you might recall that I talked about how tackling psychological issues might help with weight loss, and how you shouldn’t measure success based on the number on a weighing scale.

Well, I did step on a weighing scale recently (out of curiosity) – and I’m happy to say that I’ve shed a few pounds! Back in March, when I first started this ‘let’s-be-more-mindful-of-my-health’ thing, I weighed 78+ kg, or 172 lbs. Currently, it’s down to 73 kg (160 lbs). Yay!

I’ve been at 78 – 80 for such a long time, I honestly can’t remember when I was last at my current weight. While there’s still a lot to work on, I have to give myself a pat on the back (because self love, lol). Some people might say that five kilos in four months is slow and that I could have lost more, but hey. Progress is progress. After many failed weight loss attempts, this is by far one that I’ve stuck with the longest – and that should be an achievement to be proud of.

The most apparent reduction is in my belly, because some of my pants are actually loose now. I’m also feeling much better physically; I can walk faster and longer, and I don’t get winded so easily. The only discouraging thing is that the weight loss doesn’t show much in the parts where people actually notice, like the face (still round, still got that lovely double chin!) I told a friend about my weight loss while we were out for dinner recently and he went, “Really? I don’t see a difference.” BURNNNNNNNN 

But I digress. I actually wanted to talk about shopping. Lol. 

People are often quite surprised when they find out how much I weigh, mostly because I have quite a stout (?) build and it just looks like I’m big rather than obese (I guess in many people’s minds, 5’3 women who weigh 70 kgs and above must look like massive blobs or something). They forget that women’s body shapes are amazingly diverse, with descriptions running the gamut of everything from fruits (pears, apples) to objects (spoon, lollipops) – and that everyone carries weight differently.

Cover image: Anna Shvets via Unsplash

While clothing brands are picking up on the idea of diverse bodies, it is still quite difficult for big-sized people to find clothes that fit properly and don’t look like they’ve just thrown on a curtain and called it a shirt. While there are a number of plus-sized brands out there that offer bigger options, they are harder to find in Malaysia, and are often catered to those who are extremely large, like sizes 3XL and above. Regular clothing brands rarely have anything above a UK size 12. (For the record, I can be a size 12 to 16, depending on which brand I go to).

Even when I was thinner, I was quite busty. Basically a lot of chest and no butt. I did lots of squats to try and get that rounded ‘lift’, but it just didn’t work. This posed a problem when I was buying clothing. I actually hated shopping. Clothes would be too tight across the chest, and extremely loose everywhere else. The same thing for pants – the waist would be too loose, but the thighs and calves would be too tight. If I bought a loose-fitting shirt from the plus-sized corner, I ended up drowning in fabric, and it made me look much bigger than I actually was.

I call this the land of in-between. Not big enough to shop at plus sized stores, not small enough to go to the S, M, L section. 

I understand that you can’t get a one-size-fits-all when it comes to mass-produced clothing, but I wish there were more options on the market for people with bodies other than the conventional ‘petite’ or ‘large’ figure – especially here in Asia. Brands like H&M (coincidentally where I get most of my clothes) are more inclusive, but options tend to be limited – I find that not all of their outlets stock certain sizes, while some have designs that I like but unfortunately can’t buy because they won’t fit properly.

Only time will tell if brands here will pick up on the body diversity movement, although I think it is high time we get the conversation going in Malaysia. We as a society are still hung up with the idea of thin = healthy, when in reality, that is not always the case.

Let’s be clear though: I am not promoting obesity, nor am I body shaming anyone. I just think that we should all strive to being healthier, whatever our shape or size. You can’t tell me body positivity means accepting that someone is 600 lbs, unable to move around on their own and suffering from 10 different health conditions at once, that they should ‘love themselves the way they are’. Similarly, if someone is prone to starving themselves or going on crash diets to be thinner, that can’t be good either. I think the key should always be balance – find what works best for you, and take steps forward each day.

I’ve always looked at my body and weight in a very negative way, and it is only recently that I’ve started to change this unhealthy habit. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m hopeful that one day, I’ll be able to say with confidence that this is the body I’ve worked for, and that I’m happy with it no matter what others say –  as long as I feel good and healthy. 

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Until then, I guess I just have to shop harder. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

The Wonders of Technology

Back when I was a student in the UK (this was in 2012 – feels like a lifetime ago, lol), I remember walking into a Sainsbury and seeing self-checkout counters for the first time. I was absolutely mindblown. “Whoever invented this is a freaking genius,” I thought in glee, as I scanned my items, bagged them, paid with my debit and left the store, without so much as a hello to another human. This, my introverted self thought, was the pinnacle of technology. 

Fast forward eight years later, and this tech is finally picking up in Malaysia, as people opt for cashless, contactless transactions (accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic). Digitalisation has been on the country’s agenda for some time now, and while we’ve been slower to adopt it compared to countries in the West, or places like Singapore and China things are slowly but surely changing. Menus at restaurants are digital: you scan a QR code on your mobile, and order through the intranet. Delivery apps make it convenient to have food delivered right to your doorstep. You go to the movies, you order your tickets through a touch screen and pay through cards or mobile wallets. At airports, you check-in on a machine, get your baggage tags printed out and attach them on your own before sending them to the conveyor, without having to deal with the airport staff.

But technology is changing at such a rapid pace that it can be intimidating, even for millennials like me who are quite comfortable around machines and the digital space. I was at an autopay machine today and spent a good minute looking for an opening to insert my parking card – before realising that the instructions were to ‘scan the barcode’, and to pay via debit card. In time, I’m sure all of the machines will be replaced with this new mode of payment, and cash will be obsolete.

When I go out with my parents, they usually rely on me (because my brother is an airhead) to figure out anything to do with tech. My dad is good with gadgets, but my mom isn’t very literate in technology. She uses her phone to surf the net but does not know the difference between a Facebook account and a Facebook page. We were chatting earlier about Youtube, and I was explaining to her about subscriptions and the concept of ‘going live’. “Oooh,” she said, nodding after my third explanation. “I see. But I’ll probably forget it in a couple of hours.”

When we went to Yogyakarta a couple of years ago, AirAsia had just implemented a new contactless check-in system at KLIA2, and my mom was absolutely lost. She simply could not wrap her head around the fact that she now had to deal with a machine rather than a human. “You do it,” she said. “I’m not good with these things”. Leaving me to lug our suitcases alone to the self-check-in counter, tag them and send them on their merry way to the conveyor belt.

“What would you do if you’re travelling without me?” I asked half-jokingly, to which she replied in the utmost seriousness, “I wouldn’t be travelling. I’d be lost.

It’s a little sad whenever I hear these things as it conveys a sense of helplessness; not just from my mom, but from some people from the older generation (this does not include aunties who spread gossip and unverified info via Whatsapp – those people are experts) when it comes to adapting to the rapid technological changes that are being implemented in our everyday lives. It feels as if rather than providing convenience, tech limits some people from doing things, like the aforementioned travel. With my mom, there is also a certain degree of resistance – like how she still refuses to open an online bank account lol.

But then again, there’s one thing she has taken to like a fish to water: Online shopping. I currently have five or six orders pending on the Lazada account, from water bottles to cutlery and home decor items.

Maybe it’s all about the incentives?