30-Day Writing Challenge : Day 15 – One Thing You Never Learned

15. One Thing You Never Learned 

I’ve never learned how to swim properly.

I can ‘move’ from one end of the pool to another (or more like half the pool), but I never learned how to float. So if I was in a place where my feet don’t touch the ground, I’d probably drown. When I was a little girl, my dad attempted to teach me how to swim, but he was terrible at instructions and our visits to the pool were so sporadic his ‘lessons’ never bore fruit.

Sometimes I wonder if they had just thrown me into a pool, would I have been able to learn how to swim? Perhaps it was because I knew my dad was there to hold me that I didn’t try as hard. My dad did not have formal lessons on swimming. He basically learned how to swim at the river (public swimming pools were not a big thing back in the day – or only the rich could afford entry to the ones at posh clubs) – it was literally a case of sink or swim.

Kind of like life, innit? While I still don’t know how to swim (and have made peace that I probably never will), the takeaway from this is that we can rage against the world and its injustices and how it doesn’t fit around us, but ultimately, only the strong and the adaptable survive.

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 14 – The Weirdest Thing About Your Family

14. The Weirdest Thing About Your Family 

Hey guys! Sorry for missing out on entry 14 – got home late last night and was just too tired to write. Also been busy the last couple of days, so I haven’t been able to prep in advance either.

So, right. Weirdest thing about my fam. I think every family is dysfunctional / has its own quirks, so something that might seem weird to others might not be weird to me. As a family unit, I don’t see us having anything particularly unusual, but I guess I can share some individual quirks.

My mother is a stickler for organising things and can’t have anything out of place; not even a stray piece of paper. This has been a point of contention between us because being an INTP (a thinker), I’m not always organised in the real world because I’m busy sorting out my thoughts. I tend to leave things lying around and within convenient reach so that I can quickly access it (case in point, my books which I like to have on the desk, on my bed, under my bed, etc.). There were times where I couldn’t find items or documents I needed because she had put them away. She calls it lazy, I just call it being convenient.

My father is a detached person. He does his duty well as a dad in that he provides, doesn’t smoke, drink or gamble, fetches us to school, etc. but if you’re looking for any emotional support, then he’s the last person you’d go to. He doesn’t like to go out with us either and if we have to go on a family trip, prefers wandering off on his own or staying a little apart from the rest of us. He also does not have any friends. I’ve always felt that my dad was more suited to bachelorhood, but he somehow ended up with a family and is just seeing it through lol. It’s not to say he doesn’t love or care for us, though.

My brother is, to put it politely, reserved. Like my dad, he doesn’t have many friends, and spends his time working, gaming, drawing (he’s good at it) and being a hermit.

As for me, I think there isn’t enough time nor space to write about my quirks. Like the fact that I like to read about serial killers in my spare time, my interest in the macabre, my social awkwardness, my aversion to touch,  the fact that I like buying books but give excuses on reading them my obsession with cats; the list goes on.

My family isn’t perfect, but which fam is? I don’t believe in the ‘blood makes the bond’ thing – family is whom you choose them to be – but all things considered, I love my fam for who they are, quirks and all.

 

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge Day 13 : A Memorable Stranger

13. A Memorable Stranger

stranger
/ˈstreɪn(d)ʒə/
noun
  1. a person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar.

It was many years ago when I first watched Wong Fu Production’s Youtube short, Strangers Again which chronicles the stages of a relationship. From being strangers gradually trying to get to know each other, getting into a relationship, going through a honeymoon phase where everything is sweet and lovey-dovey, misunderstandings, fights and the inability to compromise or reconcile differences, and finally breaking up – becoming strangers, again.

I spent the better part of five years with someone from high school. We had been friends since we were 16, and got together when we were 17.  We even went to the same college for awhile, and I recall fondly times where we’d ride the train to college, sometimes waiting for hours at the mall for the other to finish their classes, just so we could ride home together. Things were sweet for awhile, but as it goes, things played out just like in Strangers, Again. It wasn’t any one person’s fault – it was just that we were young, naive and had idealistic notions about love.

Perhaps the idea is best encapsulated by this nugget of wisdom from Zendaya (young but very talented and mature, unlike many of her contemporaries in Hollywood):

“I’m so anti being in a committed relationship when you’re young and people are learning and growing, because when people are young, they make bad decisions sometimes because they don’t know any better. It doesn’t mean they don’t know the difference between right and wrong—it just means that they’re still in the experimental phase in their life where they haven’t made the right decisions yet…it’s very hard to be in a relationship when the both of you are still figuring out life. You cannot change anybody. You cannot make someone grow up faster than they’re supposed to.”

 

We were both at a phase where we were just discovering the world and the best people and environments to surround ourselves with  – and our ideals and visions for the future were just too different at the time. While we broke up on relatively good terms, it felt awkward. How do you become friends again with someone whom you have been so intimate with and who knows almost every facet of your life, for five years? Friends who knew us were pretty appalled, saying it was a shame and that I wasted five years of my life and youth. That’s just the thing though – did I want to waste another five? I’ve always been of the belief that if things don’t work out even when you’ve already exhausted all avenues, perhaps it’s time to move on.

These days, we’re still ‘friends’ on social media, although I haven’t seen him for the good part of six years, nor have we spoken much other than sporadically. Of course, having spent so much time together in our developmental years, it’s hard not to recall things from the past. All things considered, we had a good run, and our experiences together helped shaped me into the person I am today. Strangers? Yes. Memorable? Definitely.

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 12 – Friendships

12. Friendships 

Friendships come easy to some people. It’s fascinating how some people just have the gift of the gab for approaching complete strangers and somehow leaving with numbers, smiles and promises to catch up over drinks someday.

I, on the other hand, have struggled with this since high school. Being bullied, ostracised and made to feel like I never belonged, I am now somewhat guarded and reserved in person, and it takes time for me to warm up to people. In an extrovert’s world where everything is about whom you know and how well you know ’em, this can be a disadvantage (especially in a field like lifestyle journalism!).

As we get older and our time is occupied by things like family and commitments, it is natural for some friends to simply … drift apart. I’ve never been a social butterfly with a big group of friends, but the few I have kept, I treasure. I have also learnt that time is not always a determinant for good friendships, and that relationships can be fluid. I met one of my closest friends at my last workplace, where we were colleagues. Another close friend I have known since I was 13, but only became really close after high school, and one I was close to in high school but has since drifted apart. There’s also my ‘bro’ who migrated to the States (have not seen him for a decade), but still calls to wish me Happy Birthday every year. We don’t talk much, but when we do, we pick up right where we left off – it’s as if nothing has changed.

There was a time where I expected my friends to be perfect friends, which they are, of course, not. Nobody is. Even lovers fight and disagree, what more friends? One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to let go of the hurt and betrayal I’ve carried and not project it onto my friendships. If all else fails, live, let go and wish them all the best.

Life’s too short for regrets.

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30-Day Writing Challenge – Day 11: An Adventure In The Kitchen

11. An Adventure In The Kitchen

First things first: I am not much of a cook.

When I was younger, my mother ruled the kitchen with an iron-fist, and would often shoo me out because I wasn’t cutting something right or wasn’t quick enough to take the pan off the heat, etc. Over the years, my interest waned, and while she did eventually try to get me to cook, I was completely disinterested by then. There’s also a complicated food dynamic in my household; they don’t eat what I eat, and I can’t feel bothered to cook something that I don’t like (because why the effort, then?). Living alone in the UK, I had more freedom to experiment, but my cooking was still basic – edible (occasionally tasty) but not exactly 5-star fare.

A couple of years ago when my ex came to visit me from the States, he thought of impressing my folks with what I couldn’t do – cook a nice meal. My ex is not a bad cook, and I was touched that he was expending such effort. On the menu was pork adobo, spaghetti and fruit salad. I was to assist.

Shopping for ingredients was an adventure in itself, because many of the items he was used to were not available in Malaysia, or were called by a different name so it was difficult to look for them. We couldn’t find bayleaf, so we had to leave that out of the adobo (although he insisted that it wasn’t true adobo if there wasn’t bayleaf), and for the spaghetti he requested ‘tomato sauce’.

Now this was the funniest part. To Malaysians (myself included), tomato sauce = ketchup and not the canned tomato sauce type Westerners use for pasta. Mistaking this (and me not realising), we ended up putting ketchup in our spaghetti! Of course it was super sweet and almost inedible, but all else considering, having 2/3 dishes right was not too bad.

While we might not have broken up on good terms, this kitchen adventure has stuck with me because they were some of the good moments in our relationship. Every relationship has its ups and downs, and if you aren’t able to look past the bitterness after a breakup, I think you’d carry a lot of resentment and hate in your heart. Which is why despite going our separate ways, I look back on this fondly.

30-Day Writing Challenge : Day 10 – Traffic

10. Traffic 

Like many major cities in Southeast Asia, traffic in Kuala Lumpur is pretty bad. The distance between my home and the office is about 20 kilometres, and I spend about an hour getting to work, and 1.5 hours to get home. This will stretch to two hours when it rains, or if it’s a Friday evening.

Traffic congestion has been a long standing problem in Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley. We are a nation of drivers – almost every household in urban areas has at least one car. Malaysians reportedly have one of the highest rates of car ownership in the world. It’s not because we like cars (who wants to be tied down with loans and whatnot, especially since our cars aren’t that cheap either) – but it’s a necessity. Getting from place to place is simply too inconvenient if you don’t have one.

The way I see it, the major issue is connectivity.  For example, the area I live in has no buses servicing the route, and the nearest train station is 25 minutes (on foot), with no pavements to walk on (you’ll have to walk on the road where you’re at risk of being run over by a truck or some shit). This is true for many housing estates, so the only way one is able to travel conveniently is to get a car (or a motorbike). Even when using public transportation, it is often unreliable. I used to travel from my home to my college (about 40 kilometres away), which would involve me getting up at 5.30AM (my dad would drop me off at the train station on his way to work), catching the train at 6.30AM, and arriving at school at 8AM. When I had to go home, I’d take the train and switch to a bus (the journey would take up to 3 hours) and I still couldn’t get right to my doorstep because it would be a 30 minute walk on unpaved roads again – I had to wait for my dad to come pick me up.

These days, there is Grab – but the government has been regulating the system and as a result, many people have quit being Grab drivers, and the supply is limited. Longer waiting times aside, there has also been a surge in price. There have been calls from certain parties to promote carpooling by banning single drivers (which is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard), but until the day they can have better urban planning (don’t build housing estates THEN think about transportation; sane people do it the other way around) and better connectivity, I doubt there will be a solution to our transportation woes.

Then again, I just need to take a trip to Manila to remind myself that we have it much better than they do. Visiting N there has been a nightmare the last couple of times; like the time we got stuck in a flood which took us 5 hours to get from the Museum of Natural History back to our hotel near the airport: a distance of 12 kilometres. Also, breathing in diesel fumes from jeepneys, being squished like a sardine in the vehicle, sweating from pores I didn’t even know existed, and such. Yep. Gimme KL traffic any day.

 

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge Day 9

9. Something That Happened In A Mall 

My neighbourhood mall, IOI Puchong, has been around since 1998. Puchong was not as large and as busy a city as it is today; back then most of the area was covered in palm oil estates and abandoned mining pools (you can still find a very large one behind the mall, although these days people call it a ‘lake view’ lmao).

Many things have happened for me in IOI; it almost feels like an old friend that has watched me grow. I have also watched it change, from its early days with the old wing up to the expansion of the new wing, new coat of paint, new facilities, etc.

When the mall opened, it was very grand as there were no other big shopping malls in the area. Their anchor tenant was JUSCO (Jusco doesn’t exist anymore; now it’s called AEON). What I remembered best was riding the carousel in the centre court as a kid. My parents would pay a few ringgit at the concessionaire, and my brother and I would excitedly clamber onto one of the ‘horses’ for a spin.

When I went to high school, it became a hangout spot for my friends and I. The LRT didn’t exist and Grab wasn’t a thing, so we’d take a good old-fashioned bus. We’d go to the arcades, watch a movie, go bowling, play snooker. I’ve even gotten trapped in the lift once!

I had dates there, usually at a fast food place or Sushi King (very fancy, back in the day).  When one of my best friends left to study in the States, we had our farewell party for him there (haven’t seen him for a decade. Wow.)

Today, I still go to the mall regularly. It’s good that they’ve managed to keep it updated with renovations and also new tenants, so the mall doesn’t go the way of those old, tired shopping malls that look like they’re going to crumble any second. In fact, I think it’s doing better these days, what with new restaurants and entertainment outlets.

IOI Mall holds a special place in the hearts of Puchong-ites. It’s not so much the outlet as it is the memories and experiences it has offered to locals, and I can’t imagine the city without it. Although there are many other places further away that are grander, this neighbourhood mall will always remain my go-to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge Day 8 : Your Worst Birthday

8. My Worst Birthday

Birthdays feel a little passe, now that I’m older.

On my birthday this year, I was working (it was a weekday) – although, I have to say that it was a fun assignment where I had to interview a street chef and try their food. Then my weekends were so taken up with part-time work and other stuff that I only managed to have a simple dinner with a close friend (and that was like a month later, so we could celebrate our birthdays together, lol).

My worst birthday was probably my 25th one. Apart from having a quarter-life crisis, I was also burning out from work, which required long (and odd) hours – working weekends, overtime, having very little time with family, etc. On my birthday, I was out early in the morning and only finished work at midnight. When I got home, my mom had waited up just to wish me, and she said “I hardly see you these days.” Which made me feel extremely guilty, so I quit my job, which caused a big row because it was a company with ‘good prospects’ (even though the reason I quit was because I wanted to spend more time with the fam).

Moving on to happier topics, my best birthday as I recall, was my 9th one which was also the only one I had which was a ‘proper’ party. It was held at the A&W in Taman Jaya, where I had a Sailormoon cake (was obsessed with the cartoons back then) and some classmates over. We played games with balloons and teased the A&W bear mascot by pulling its tail, and it got ‘angry’. I still have photos from that party somewhere!