What the heck is feminism? To be honest I wasn’t completely familiar with the term until much later in life. Although I had been somewhat exposed by that mindset thanks to my parents and school (I was in an all-girls boarding school for 5 years), I had never quite heard of the term ‘feminism’ when I was younger. And then, as time went on, I began discovering the many interpretations of this term. Madonna said we should all free our nipples. Social media seems to define the epitome of feminism as a woman who has her own business empire and produces a lot of generic self-love advice. One of my girlfriends said it’s the point in life where you no longer need a man except for their sperm. One guy in office said feminism is terrifying because when women rule, everything would just spiral into an emotional-driven hell.
I don’t know. I guess different people have different perceptions and definitions of feminism. For a lot of us it’s not all that dramatic – feminism is just a mentality we aspire to achieve where women can live in an environment where we are allowed to be who we want to be – and that’s pretty much a broad definition with many contexts, depending and your socio and economic background.
But I am intrigued to talk about what it means to be a ‘strong woman’, in today’s society. One day I was enlightened (and by enlightened I mean that a friend shared with me a link on the internet) with a review of one of my books, of which a reviewer had said that the protagonist sounded like a weak girl who needs to ‘wake up and stop being sad’. I was a little taken aback by this. In my writer’s mind, I never wrote the character within the vicinity of ‘sad girl’. She was just a normal girl who was trying to reflect on the process of being sad about something that happened in her life. Being sad was her transient state of mind, but not her entire being.
It made me think about how we sometimes choose to see and define 'strength'. Often, there is this idealistic view that being strong means that you physically look like you’ve got your shit together, you kick a man to the curb the minute he breaks your heart, you post a positive caption on Instagram every so often, you’re financially stable, you’ve got your own business and four kids and a handsome husband who all live in a gorgeously decorated house, or you’re single and say stuff like ‘#livingthelife’ and ‘#singledontcare’.
I’m not saying these things are bad. In fact, these things are good. These are all positive outcomes, after all. But what these also do sometimes is that they contort the dimensions of the idea of 'strength'. They also instil the subconscious mindset that anything other than that is not a strong, empowered woman. A strong woman shouldn’t look like she isn’t dressed to take over the world. A strong woman shouldn’t feel sad and hurt and vulnerable. A strong woman shouldn’t express herself other than something uplifting. A strong woman shouldn’t be okay about wanting to live a normal average life and must always want more, more and more. A strong woman must never feel like she needs a partner in her life.
In other words, a strong woman should never feel human.
It’s a dangerous bar that we’ve raised for ourselves. When strength is equated to being invincible, it becomes an impossible pursuit. When you pursue something that does not exist, you’ll never feel enough. And when you never feel enough, that’s when it all goes downhill – you begin to feel defined by the materials that you own, you allow yourself to settle for less, you repress your emotions to the point of depression, you feel ‘beneath’ others who seem to have more success than you do, and you start feeling lonely and lost. A lot.
What I’ve learned so far, through myself and so many other women around me, is that the real meaning of being a strong and empowered woman begins with you being okay with yourself. Acknowledging your flaws, admitting that you feel overwhelmed, recognizing that you’ve done your best within your means and putting a stop on comparing your life to others is the first step of being empowered. Accepting and loving yourself is empowering. Living your life through standing up for your own worth and according to what you want out of it is strength.
I'm saying all these things as though I've got it all down to pat, but of course not. I have my days when I don't feel great about how I look, when I don't think I have tried my best, when I feel like I'm not good enough for someone and when I feel like my life blows in comparison to that other girl on Instagram. It's work in progress to try and be better at these things. But I do believe that by trying to be a great, amazing, human example of what a woman is, you are actually making a significant contribution in building a progressive conversation about women’s opportunities and biasness in our society.
More of that, and less of just shouting from the rooftops angry, generic ‘feminist’ slogans without even understanding what they really mean.
2019 picked up as quickly as it came. It seemed like a pretty busy start for pretty much everyone – lots of my friends have begun to have school runs (only a reminder of how fast time flies and how quick children grow!), and for me I had my second book launch to sort out, and yet another travel plan to kick start my new year. Amidst the chaos, I seemed to have less time to do my favourite thing come each new year – making New Year Resolutions.
For as long as I can remember, I have always loved making New Year Resolutions. There is just something about the turn of every 365 days, that allows me to physically calculate my milestones; for some reason this makes me feel assured that I have done something with my life. It’s the control freak in me that loves to know how far I’ve come and plan what else I’d do in the future.
This year, instead of making a list of things I plan on doing, I am making a list of things I need to improve on with myself. I’ll consciously make efforts to try and work on them this year, but won’t put up a measurable expectation.
First of all, I definitely, definitely need to learn to become more financially savvy. Last year’s travel-mindlessly-without-a-care-in-the-world actually did put a dent in my wallet. I have no intentions of slowing down this year, but I certainly know that I can work out better ways to make that lifestyle more sustainable. Being a responsible adult (blergh! I’m an adult boo-hoo) also means that I now have to be more mindful about where the $$$ goes, and although investments, trust funds, savings and stuff had been and always will be a bore to me (as do most adulating things), I know that I need to think about them eventually if I have hopes of financial freedom (as we all do, no matter who we are).
Secondly, I wish to improve my relationships with others. I am fully aware that I have an amazing support system any girl can ask for. I have supportive parents and siblings, friends who genuinely care about me, and colleagues who are constantly helpful (believe it or not, I’ve never had a terrible boss!). Unfortunately, I do notice that as I grew busier, I sometimes forget to nurture these relationships. I firmly believe that my quality of life is determined by the quality of my relationships, and so looking forward I want to make conscious efforts to stay connected to people I value the most. For example, a friend noted that I tend to ‘fall off the grid’ sometimes and not reply to text messages, and/or fail to show up to gatherings (admittedly, this happens a lot when I’m in my ‘writing cave’). I would like to show up more for my family and friends.
Thirdly, I want to challenge myself to stop gossiping altogether. Frankly I don’t do much of it anymore these days, but there was a time last year when I was conscious of the fact that I was indulging in some bad talk over others’ and their choice of lifestyles. Oprah says that gossiping is just an exhibition of your own low self-esteem, and Oprah is my gal so let’s try to have none of those this year.
The fourth thing I want to work on is of course, my third book. I’m pretty sure I can guarantee that we won’t be seeing a new book from me this year. Although I’ve begun to work on it, I foresee that it will take a long time to finish, as I am quite happy to really indulge in it for as long as I can this time around. It’s a new territory I’m excited to work on!
Lastly, I would like to put myself in more unfamiliar situations. The thing about growing older is you tend to want to become a social hermit; you’d want to stick around with only things and people you’re familiar with. Which is great, but over the years I’ve realised that being more adventurous and delving into unfamiliar territories are what kept my life more exciting and inspired. So more conscious efforts to try new and unfamiliar things in the future.
How about you? What are the things you’d like to work on come this new year?
Please note that this is the ghetto, uncensored version of my article in NST this month. You’ll notice the similarities.
I’m not sure if it was immediate or gradual. Though when I think about it, the natural course of episodes in life are usually what leads to a change or shift within us, most of the time. So perhaps this was one of those things.
Towards the end of 2017 a few episodes happened. There was something sad, which for some reason fuelled my incessant restlessness. But then DUMPED was published with wonderful reviews, which catapulted my bravery to keep on experimenting with writing and my writing process. I turned 30, which was a hard reminder that really, time flies extremely fast, so if I want to do something, this is about the perfect time to start and no longer stall.
And so the combination of these things was the start-up of 2018, or what I would call “They Year When I Said Screw This And I Will Do Whatever My Heart Wishes”. This isn’t to say that I haven’t done this in the past. Of course I have. But to be honest, I have always done them will a little hesitation and a lot of reservations. This time around, I really did just throw caution to the wind and went for it.
For some reason, this year I began to have a lot of change in mindset on the way I have been conducting my own life. I don’t want to sound like a grandma, but truly, with the years that have passed I have come to be a lot more accepting of myself and my circumstances. I felt a lot less desire to ‘fit in’, or, in a more extensive elaboration of that phrase, a lot less urge to try to become someone I am not. It is enough to know who you are even when others don't get you, and truth be told, people who truly love you will be just be accepting and loving of you even if you're slightly wired differently. I am also a big believer that everything happens the way it is supposed to – and for now, everything has conspired for me to be in this position of financial advantage, minimal commitment, creative freedom and a lot of access to do what I would like to venture into.
And so I decided to grab this window of opportunity by the balls (excuse my French), and I’ll tell you what this means. It meant that I packed my bags and took a long, long leave from work to travel and write. Then I came back, and off I went again. Then back, then off again. I was always going going going. I went to eat pizza in Naples, I took long walks around Paris, I climbed the Annapurna Base Camp, I got lost in Meteora, Greece, I had the best sushi of my life in Tokyo, I explored Barcelona, I went diving for my birthday, and I was on a stranger's motorbike zooming across the paddy fields in West Sumatera. I spent a lot of quality time with my family and friends, a further catalyst to a stable emotional well-being.
Then I began taking kickboxing classes, because why the hell not?
I bought a pair of roller blades and learned how to do that (and failed), because why the hell not?
I learned how to make the perfect roast chicken, because why the hell not?
I took up French classes (with exams, mind you), because why the hell not?
Doing these things, traveling everywhere, meeting many new people, learning new things, exploring new territories… it has been so beautiful and exciting and inspiring. It inspired me to keep writing my column, and of course it inspired me to finish my second book. But most importantly, it is that elevated feeling that I am the woman living the life I had always dreamed of when I was a little girl. It is the freeing feeling of succumbing to the life that has been given to me, instead of always contemplating why I am cut short of other things that other people are having. These, for me, are what make my happiness.
I won’t whitewash this and say that I am always 100% happy and grateful. That’s impossible and frankly, the kind of impression that I despise giving other people. Having a good year doesn't mean I don't have days where I wish for more or have heartaches. Some feelings stay the same, some days feel a little bit lonely, and some of us fell sick, lost something, with plans falling through or families in great ordeal. In this day and age that we live in, it is inevitable to ‘stumble’ upon pictures of an ex being happy without you, or some other girl who seems to be living a life of great outfits and great fun without needing to have an actual job like the rest of us. But I would confidently say that in 2018, I have been complaining a lot less and living life a lot more than I did before relatively. 2018 feels full (the same can’t be said about my savings account unfortunately. Travel and hobbies really drain your pockets man. But the way I see it, money can always be replenished. Time, however, cannot.). My time feels full and unwasted. My heart feels full.
And in the end, isn’t that the most important thing? And also, why haven't I approached life like this sooner??
Happy New Year everyone.
Good Lordy Lord it’s another birthday again. My thirtieth year had been such a whirlwind! I kicked it off last year with an unforgettable diving trip in Sipadan with my best friend, M. And after that, it was just a fast-paced blur. There was a book launch, I think… I remember reading pages from my book in a bookstore, and there were family, friends, press and readers. We laughed a lot. It was a beautiful event. And then something sad happened. That wasn’t great. Let’s keep that for another day. And then M got married, and I was so happy for her. And after that was a series of hardcore traveling, almost back-to-back, something I never thought I’d ever do, but I did. I took a month off and went to Lyon to hang out with some friends, then to Amalfi, Pompeii, Barcelona, and finally Paris on my own. After that I went to Japan, and later on for a seriously amazing, indulgent trip all around Greece in a rented car.
All the while, I wrote my second manuscript for a second book (hopefully), and I continued contributing to New Straits Times on my column. Dumped continued to be one of the bestselling books for a few months, and it gained amazing reviews by press and readers. I also started learning the ukulele, took a French language course and tried to master the art of roller skating (still trying). And then I began to train for something physically major happening in September, which you’ll know about soon enough.
And before I knew it, it’s July again, in a whole other year. Another birthday has arrived.
When talking to friends or people my age, we find that one of the challenges is how to keep things interesting throughout the whole year. For the most of us, it’s a lot of work and too little play, because it seems like ‘play’ takes too much money, effort and time – things that we don’t always have at our expense.
This time around, I thought that it might be fun to share a few tips and tricks on how to consistently keep a whole year interesting. Some are big things, some are just small actions, but I think all of them have the capabilities of boosting my mood and getting me out of a rut of work days and office hours and life chores. Maybe these are the things that you do, too!
1. Do something completely random
And I’m not even talking about big random things like buying a sports car or getting a Fitbit you’ll never use (I’ve seen too many examples of this). Honestly, sometimes all we need is a little re-invention to feel invigorated. Even as little as going to the ice cream parlour and buying an ice cream flavor you normally wouldn’t go for. Or trying a new restaurant during lunch time. Or wearing a completely different style than your usual, even just for a day. These things sound small, but they really do wonders in getting you out of your mundane routine, especially if you’re pressed for time.
2. Get creative
No matter how NOT creative you claim yourself to be, venturing into something that requires your right brain’s full focus is an easy way to de-stress. That’s actually one of the reason why I began learning to play the ukulele. You get home after a long day at work, and you have 30 minutes before you need to sort out chores etc etc. What do you do? Pick up an instrument, play while enjoying a drink, and after a while you’re completely in a whole other mood. I find that this works even better than just getting home, slumping on your couch and watching TV. If music is not your thing, then perhaps painting, sketching, journaling or even a jigsaw puzzle would float your boat.
3. Try something that makes you a little uncomfortable
In simplified terms, try something that is not your usual perspective. If you're a city person, how about a weekend at a very remote kampung with none of the usual comfort items you're usually attached to? (air-cond, WiFi, fancy restaurants). You'll be surprised how a small change in views can give such an interesting boost in life. Or attend a class of a sport you've never even thought of trying. Last month I tried Muay Thai Kickboxing, something I never thought I'd attempt because it always seemed so violent. But I did, and it turned out to be such a good, different experience (also I got to punch people, which was a great anger-management method). If you've never tried travelling solo, then how about that? Or joining an organised charity, or checking out a religious ceremony that is not your faith, or attending a live band performance...
4. Find fun friends
This is important, You are who you hang out with, and if you're spending time with dull people who are exactly the same as you are, then expect to never get out of the rut in or learn anything new. Negative people (who always have an excuse to not do anything interesting, who always have something bad to say about everything) is a complete no-no too. Instead, get the ones who different from your cultural background so you can always learn something new. Forge relationships with people who are excited about life, and would encourage/accompany you to try new things, like training for a half-marathon, doing a group cleanse or even plan an all-girls weekend getaway.
5. Learn a new life skill
I once worked next to an 50-something Australian guy at work, who told me that "you are never too old to learn a new skill". Sadly, a lot of us feel the opposite. Come the 30s and beyond, we begin to have less interest in learning anything new. And this is such a shame because self-enrichment is such a gratifying feeling, especially when you're older and life begins to feel a little bit too plateau. And life skills doesn't always have to generate money. It's not always about the money, you know.
I recently signed up for a French Language course, all motivated by the thought that someday, I'd be able to watch a french film without subtitles! And maybe somewhere along the way it can help amp up my resume, too. I also have a friend, a mother of two, who attended watercolour painting classes, and another one who's learning to be a yoga instructor,,, there are just endless lists of new skills you can learn out there!
A few days ago, I found myself sitting on some rocks high up the hill, in a place called Meteora, in Greece. Meteora is a place famous for its monasteries perched high on top of rock pillars, isolated from the world. The monasteries were built by hermit monks during the height of the Turkish occupation of Greece, in hopes that they will be unbothered there.
During sunset these rock pillars stood high, looming long shadows wrapped by the rays of the setting orange sun. To say it was beautiful would be an understatement. I sat there, across these monasteries facing the sunset, thousands of miles away from home, and I was in place where I didn’t know anyone and no one knew me.
Did I know I was going to be in Greece? Not until two months ago. In fact, I had no plans to even go to Greece anytime soon. But FlyScoot (which is an Airline, previously known as Tiger Airways) gifted me with free tickets and so there I was, perched on a mountaintop somewhere North of the Greek lands on a Tuesday evening. Talk about random.
But then again, this year has been all about random. I made a pledge during the New Year (which you can read here) to dedicate 2018 to just being spontaneous with minimal plans. Anything is possible, I told myself. And just like that, it seemed like everything around me began to conspire to make this resolution possible – I got free tickets to go anywhere I would like (which I will forever be thankful for!). If that’s not some kind of miracle, I don’t know what is, sugar.
Now, back to me sitting on top of the mountain at the monasteries.
During the hours of just sitting there watching the sun go down, I began to think about how I had no idea I was ever going to end up there. If you asked me two years ago, I wouldn’t have guessed that I would be there, in that specific circumstance of my life and in that exact state of mind. Some things were going well, and some things weren’t. And yet, despite the lack of idealistic perfection most of us like to dream our lives could be, I was happy.
I think one of my bigger struggles in life is to understand that life is a journey, and not a permanent residential stop. I mean, I understand it conceptually, but applying it is different altogether. This is why it gets hard for me to let go of people even when they have passed their dues, and why I get really melancholic when I reflect on passing time I’ll never get back. On moments like those on the mountain I would think about how sad it was that some things in my life are gone and only the memories will remain. And this will happen in the future too – our health, parents, beauty, friends, spouses… nothing lasts forever.
But I suppose what has changed is my acceptance of it. One of the biggest blessings of growing older is that you begin to understand that nothing is permanent in this life, and that the only change to the whole situation is how you embrace it.
Maybe happiness isn’t really about having things forever. Maybe happiness is about knowing what is there when you have it, and never taking advantage of these wonderful things, people, chances and experiences, while they last, before they are gone.
Contrary to last year’s New Year’s Eve of friends, a rooftop balcony, KL fireworks and a throng of partygoers trashing the city centre streets, this year I spent my New Year’s Eve with my family, had hamburgers for dinner, and clocked out at 10 pm. I didn’t even get to harass people on Twitter about their New Year’s Resolutions before I passed out.
But no, last night wasn’t at all a summation of what 2017 had been. I would admit, 2017 started kind of shitty for me, but it began to climb uphill from there to become one of the most prominent years of my life (so far). In short, I really did underestimate 2017 before it began, and it ended up as the most wonderful blessing. But not without its own supply of challengers, heartaches and new things to learn, here are some highlights that I acquired throughout the whole year.
Maybe you can relate to some of them too!
1. When I got my book publishing contract
Hey remember that time when you won the lottery? This was so much better! On the day I received an email from MPH saying that they would like to offer a publishing contract for my manuscript, it all felt surreal to me that I took days to process this information. I was happy, nervous and frankly, scared. I didn’t know anyone else who was a writer, and I did not even intend to publish the manuscript when I first wrote it (I write a lot, but mostly for my own indulgence). It was very hard to keep this exciting news under wraps for months, and I told only one other person about this. I kept it a secret because of my own insecurities – what if it didn’t turn out as I expected it? What if it all turns into a massive disaster?
2. When I became a NST columnist
I know we all envision Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and The City when we think about the phrase ‘newspaper columnist writing about relationships’, but I’ll have you know that I don’t own a single pair of Manolo Blahniks. Nor have I dated 50 guys like she has. On the first day my first column came out, I went to buy my first newspaper in I don’t know, ten years? Writing for New Straits Times was a huge career milestone for me, as I knew it was my first big writing profile. Before this I had only published in my blog, but writing for a paper requires a certain finesse on content, opinion projection and message. My first column came out in February, and we are still going bi-weekly strong today!
3. When I saw Coldplay in concert
Yes, I know for some people this is probably nothing. But my goodness, Coldplay! There’s a backstory to this. When I was in college I used to listen to them almost everyday (and I still do). I memorize almost 100% of all lyrics of all of their songs. On my final year in college, Coldplay was having a concert in Perth near where I lived at the time, and I badly wanted to go. Unfortunately I was a broke student (even with 2 part-time jobs, mind you), and I couldn’t afford the tickets. Finally seeing Chris Martin playing a Martin D28 guitar live actually was part of my bucket list, and any year where I get to tick off something from the list is a good year for me!
4. When I realised that dreams have a price
People tell you this all the time, but it isn’t until you actually experience it that you’ll know what it really means. Along the year I found myself multitasking most of the time – I had a busy full time office job, and at the same time I was editing my book, writing for my NST column, making sure the blog isn’t first-wifed, and I was also writing the second manuscript. As a consequence there was a period where I did not have a single vacant weekend for 2 months straight, and I did not manage to see my family or socialise as much as I would like to. But despite the craziness, there was the strange self-indulgence in spending time doing something you really love, so there wasn’t any complaining either. I suppose the lesson here is everything has a price, including and especially, dreams.
5. When I got a new nephew
Nope, I still feel the same way about kids in general, if you’re thinking that having nephews have turned me into a motherly Mama Bear. But I can proudly say that I can now hold a baby in a safe, HSE-adherent way without having panic attacks.
As long as they don’t pee, poo, barf, snot, salivate, or make any general screaming noise.
6. When I turned the big 3-0
Newsflash: When they told you that turning 30 is dreadful, they are LYING. Turning 30 is the best thing ever!
To be honest, when 2017 began and I realised my 30th birthday was approaching, all those social context of fearing ageing really got to me. I didn’t feel like I was ready to be a full adult yet! Okay, I still don’t think I’m ready, but the good news is this time of life is a great place to be. Personally, I have never felt better in my own skin or happier with my own body than today. I think this self-assurance projects itself in how I perceive my worth, my relationships and how I carry myself compared to when I was, say, 22. You tend to care less about what others think and more about your own happiness and creating the life you want to live, and it is the best feeling ever, truly.
Everyone ages, but not everyone ages well. Be conscious of how you experience your years and how you use it to benefit you.
7. When I went underwater at my own backyard
As a birthday gift to myself, my bestie and I went for an almost a week diving at Sipadan, Malaysia. Hailed as one of the most beautiful diving sites in the world, I shamefully admit that I had never visited it once even when it’s in my own country. It was everything I hoped it would be, and I came back darker and happier.
It was also my last hurrah with M before she got married. And to note, M getting married was also a highlight of my year. I was so absolutely happy for her. It was also one of those rare occasions when I didn’t hate weddings.
8. When my book launched, and all the reactions that followed it
You’d think it was all excitement and a big hurrah, but prior to the launch of the book I experienced one of my most intense bout of anxiety. Fully aware that people can be mean, the public can be judgemental and that dreams can crash in failure, I was so afraid that something that means this much to me can or will backfire. After all, literature is a form of art, and like other art, I know for a fact that it will not please everybody. There was always that fear that something you love might not be good enough, and this haunted me for months.
But so far, the reception for the book has really exceeded any of my wildest dreams for it. Last month it became the National Bestseller, and to this day I still feel that it was surreal and mind boggling – what?? (slaps own face)
Furthermore, looking at all the feedback and pictures of people enjoying the book on social media has made me feel so overwhelmed with joy. There was a girl who wrote to me and said that the book helped her healing process through some of her own hard times, and I thought that was just pure magical. It has somehow, unintentionally or otherwise, allowed a stranger help another stranger. That truly meant more to me than any best-selling list.
I guess what I learned throughout this entire process is that if you have a dream, however small or extravagant, go after it for yourself, not for anything or anyone else. That way, however it turns out, the satisfaction will always be in the journey rather than the material targets of it.
9. When I took charge of my own health
It’s not easy at first, folks. Not when a lot of people around you are eating and drinking junk nobody really needs. But I’ve learned a few tricks this year that might be helpful; 1. Eat meals with people who also eat healthily, so you’re not tempted 2. Chill with the change. Don’t drastically try becoming a vegan or starving yourself, because dude that will never work ever 3. For God’s sake, EXERCISE. Find something you enjoy and find friends who enjoy it too! Your body is built to move, not slouched on a couch watching Stranger Things. You’re not 20 anymore and you won’t get away with that for very long.
10. When I learned what it takes to have a gratified heart
Oh, 2017. You broke my heart and then you built it up again, bigger than I ever thought possible. I have struggled to find the fine line between not giving up and learning to let go. Because I had always been somewhat attached to the philosophy that you just don’t quit on something that means immensely to you, this sometimes makes me too stubborn and too hopeful.
This year is a big year for my heart too. I learned that when it comes to matters of the heart, you should always do everything wholeheartedly, and love to the best of your ability. Don’t be too obliged by your ego and especially fear. Be fearless when it comes to the matters of the heart. So that whichever way it turns out, you’ll always find it easier to find peace and acceptance, and you’ll never have any regrets. Regret is one of the most painful things you’ll have to endure, if you’re not careful.
To be honest, after all that racket, I’m all set and ready to venture into 2018! What does your 2018 plan look like? I’m looking at a year of a lot of traveling, fitness, working hard and even more laughs. Lots and lots of laughs.
Happy New Year and I hope we all find what we’re looking for. And more.
How about a makeup-free, ootd-free picture at a local village? That kid though haha
The minute I ended my final year in high school, I started putting on makeup.
I had this vague idea of what beauty was at the time. It’s the gorgeous glossy hair, perfect glowing skin, slim body, upright posture, big doll eyes, put-together clothes, perky boobs and perfect teeth. I aspired to these things. They were all so beautiful to look at. That was more than 10 years ago.
Today I still aspire to these things. I won’t lie. Of course. I’m a woman living in an era where appearance speaks volumes, and physical beauty is and always will be an eternal obsession for us. As much as I say that I do all these things for health – the exercises, the healthy food, the rigorous skincare routines – there is still a level of vanity attached to them. But as much as these things are still prioritized, to a certain extent it no longer means as much as it did for me once upon a time ago.
Life, as it turns out, has subtly shaped my mind to alter my perception of beauty over the years of joyful, painful and liberating experiences. And so this is what beauty means to me today, at the age of 30.
Beauty is your eyes that never fails to light up against life’s dim realities. Beauty is the freckles you collected over all your many beautiful adventures in the sun. It is the smile you have on your face when a man tells you he adores you, and it’s the tears you shed when someone you love walks away. Beauty depicts itself through your pursed lips as you get up again when life brings you down. It is your crazy hair after a swim in the ocean, the runny eyeliner after a crazy sweaty day in the city.
Beauty is when you love someone/something sincerely, and even the eye bags when the same thing keeps you from sleeping. It shines the most when you have happy thoughts, when you choose to not resort to always have something bad to say about others. It’s that beam you have when you finally achieve your dreams, and the wrinkles that follow to mark the passage of time you’ve been through.
And then, beauty occurs in those moments – when you are laughing hysterically at life’s funny predicaments, when you cry in the car because sometimes you feel lost, the wide-eyed gaze you have when you witness something magnificent, and even the scars and bruises you have on your body of all that you have physically experienced. Beauty is having patience. Beauty is having faith.
Beauty, is kindness.
And so as I begin my next decade, I hope these realizations would arm me in defining my own beauty in the years to come. Yes, I still do Google ‘Megan Fox’ for some inspiration because come on, we're all human, but hopefully I would keep focusing as much energy to appreciate all those other things that make a person beautiful.
Me at 12 years old. Why don't I have eyebrows?
It’s bootsoverbooks.com’s birthday month! It has been 7 years (surreal), and it’s one of my great loves. Over the years it had given me sanity (it’s basically my unpaid therapist), and a lot of other people the delights of (hopefully) entertaining reads and laughing about topics that would otherwise be bummers in life.
As a little celebration, I’ve compiled my personal top 10 favorite entries over the years and I’ve explained why. You can click on the title to read the whole entry!
Over the years of being friends with mostly females (I hail from an all girls’ school), one of the most inconvenient issues we whine about had always been about periods. It’s a bloody war, both literally and figuratively. A monthly commitment that comes with symptoms, it really does have the power to drive emotional consequences, damage relationships (for instance, did you know that statistically, most breakups happen during the woman’s period? Explains a lot doesn’t it?), and create physical distress. So for those who will never have the chance to experience it, or are blessed to have smooth-sailing cycles, I’m here to indulge you in some insider’s information.
Also, these are not necessarily my own personal symptoms, but rather a more generic overview.
1. The “I’m-Going-To-Stab-You-To-Death” Mood
Maybe it’s because of the discomfort of bleeding for days, maybe it’s the hormones, but it always seems like anger has a much shorter fuse at this time. You’ll get easily angered by everyone, and that includes colleagues, security guards, girl at the cash register who takes forever to pack your groceries, babies crying and the final episode of Game of Thrones. Sometimes you’ll get extra touchy too. For example, when your friends make jokes about how you should lose weight, it’s usually just good banter. But during these testing times, the same jokes will make you want to punch somebody.
2. The Sadness Over Everything, For No Apparent Reason
Definitely the cause of hormones. One minute you feel like life is pleasant and filled with amazing opportunities and good fortune, and the next minute you’ll see a homeless puppy and the sky turns immediately grey. You begin to wonder what a hard life it must be for that pup, and you worry about how it will ever get a proper meal. Then you look into the puppy’s sad eyes and you contemplate about how horrible the world is that we’re living in, and injustice is everywhere. And that includes bad things happening to good people, which also includes yourself at times. Then you start tearing up because it’s now raining, and now that puppy will be cold. You begin contemplating to start a homeless shelter for animals.
3. The Cramps
Have you ever experienced giving birth to a full backpack? Well, me neither, but I would imagine that the period cramps is a close enough approximation. A girlfriend told me that the whole myth of “once you have children, the period cramps will settle down” is an absolute lie, and that’s terrible news. It’s the back pain, butt pain, uterus pain and an overall sensation as though you’re carrying the villain for the next “Alien vs Predator” movie. This would usually last enough time to disrupt your usual life routines.
4. The Horrible Partner Episode
I find that I was the worst kind of girlfriend during this window of turbulent time. The clinginess, the neediness, the constant need for emotional validation always made me cringe later when I was back to my normal self again. Everything a man says has a tendency to be a lot more hurtful than usual, even if it’s as innocent as remarking that your food needs a little more salt. Based on my observational experiences, these things happen even when women are in stable, happy marriages. Therefore I really just feel bad for all the men out there having to face the demon that is the dark, PMS-ed side of their spouses.
5. The Insatiable Hunger
Good God the hunger. Sometimes the pangs feel like you’ve just gotten off an island where all you had for the past 5 years were coconut water. For some strange reason your body also begins to crave the unhealthier options – the carbs, the sugar and red meats. Looking back at my food photos (I’m always taking pictures of my cooking), this is the time when I’m constantly baking, making elaborate rice dishes, and eating a lot (I mean A LOT) of potatoes.
6.The Skin Rebellion
One night you’re sleeping with a somewhat clear skin, and the next morning it’s “hello boils!” Skin tends to behave badly during this magical time, producing zits and inflamed imperfections that look like traffic red lights. This is particularly inconvenient if there is a date, a job interview or any social activity coming up that requires proper self-esteem. The bad news is that there really isn’t much to do when it comes to avoiding hormonal conflicts such as this one.
And it always feels like I'm capable of eating all these kuihs....
There is little good news about this, except that you may soothe yourself by saying that this is all happening as part the required sacrifices in your social contribution in populating the earth (no, it’s not really that soothing at all). But if you’re in your twenties chances are you would’ve experienced this cycle at least 180 times, and so certain tips to calm the fires would’ve been established, as below;
So there you go. I think I’ve compiled pretty much everything I know, from my own experiences as well as my female friends and family. So the next time you’re faced with a woman possible going through an uterus make-over, consider yourself armed with these useful information and you can then safeguard yourself from being stabbed with a kitchen knife.
Two weeks ago I spent a few days on an island, by the sea. A good friend of mine has a place right next to a beautiful lagoon and steps away from the beach, and she gracefully invited me over for a little retreat. I spent a great deal of time in peaceful contentment – swimming while watching the sunset, reading in hammocks, and just marvelling at the harmless, vast beauty of turquoise waters, which at some point of the horizon transitioned into a deep blue, with white frothy waves surging towards me … it all felt very ‘Cast Away’ (minus the fugly beard, psychotic ball friend and rotting teeth).
It reminded me of one of my earliest memories of my life. That memory was vague, patchy and colourless – I remember a sea, waves, my Mother’s face, and some fish. My Mother would later tell me that this was perhaps a moment in Merdeka Beach when we went there for a picnic and I was around 3. There used to be a lot of fish swimming by its shores. She also mentioned me in a diaper, but that is hardly fashionable so let’s skip that.
It then brought me to think about how people are embedded into our memories. By unintentional actions or choice, ones that come into our lives will inevitably find a mould into our minds where they sit there unencumbered as a snapshot of life, just like my Mother’s twenty six year-old face in my first recoverable memory. It is then safe to say, whether we like it or not, that we are bound to live forever in someone else’s mind, even after we are long gone, whether it be due to change, circumstance or cruel time.
The fact that we will all go away someday, that our days are numbered before we remain as only fragments of fading memory to others, highlights a simple but often forgotten question in life. The question is this – were we ever brave enough to go for that exciting but unfamiliar choice, or did we spend the rest of our lives just worrying what others may think of us and trying to fit it? Did we coward out too soon and missed out on our chance for a truly amazing life adventure? If it doesn’t scare you, it will never change you. And not changing at all? Well, then we’re missing the whole point.
Being aware that we are destined to be a part of someone else’s memory is also sometimes intimidating. It makes one realize that this only leaves us with either one of two choices – we can either choose to be a good or a bad memory to someone else. This in turn affects how we see our actions in everything. Did I thank my Father? Did I smile at that stranger? Did I make you feel understood? How would you remember me, if at all, years from now?
By the end of the day, as the sun set at the polar opposite side of where I saw it rise that morning, it began to dawn on me that there really isn’t a prefix to that trail of thought. The simple fact is, someday, we will all be gone, only to remain as eternal pieces scattered in the minds of others. Someday, we will all just be a memory, so let’s strive to be a good one.