I got so many constructive feedback about the book, particularly about the main character. Thank you so much! Most people loved her, some found her a little unbearable, and some just downright despises her whole premise haha.
Now here's a little elaboration about the girl from the writer's perspective.
When I designed the character on paper (and whether this is fiction/non-fiction/semi-fiction had no effect on this process), I was very specific about how I would paint this protagonist. Although perhaps I began with no expectations on how the protagonist should be like, subconsciously I realised that her built had a purpose to the story. It wasn't done carelessly, and it wasn't done without a goal.
And I designed the main character to be these things - gullible, flawed, naive at times, but most of all, human.
I had zero interest in making her perfect.
As a writer, there is nothing I can learn from narrating about a perfect character who makes perfect choices. As a reader, there is no added value for someone else to read about a flawless person who makes all the smart decisions.
Honestly, I do enjoy the occasional read of a fantasy story - about meeting Mr Darcy or designer bags or a world where everyone says all the right things, but I'm afraid the frivolity of it all could not sustain my interest. Of all my years reading, as much as there is a yearn to escape through literature, I also love stories about real people and real lives. Things that could happen to me, you, and people around us. Tales that assure us that life is funny, sad, colourful and most of all, amazing.
It is then up to the reader to evaluate the piece and decide whether it is an inspiration, or a lesson learned about what not to do.
And ultimately, that was the purpose of her - to allow us to use her to reflect and resolve the fickleness of youth, the value of mistakes and the beauty of growing older through experiences.
I hope the protagonist served you well.
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.
The blunt truth is, as much as we try, sometimes in life shit will hit the fan so hard and it becomes almost impossible to remain optimistic. In whatever form it may present itself, be it a failure in ambition, the retreat of a relationship, the diminishing of a dream, or even simply one of those days where nothing is going quite right, there are moments when no amount of life quotes can make you feel any better.
Although feeling down and out is inevitable at times, there are certainly things that we could do to self-help ourselves in healthily moving past it or see things in a more constructive light. Instead of sending ourselves to the insane asylum or popping a Valium or worse, crying at a corner of the room naked while hugging our knees (I’ve never done this, I swear), here are some things that we can do instead to entice some positivity back into our lives.
List is established through my personal experiences, and from others around me.
It doesn’t matter where you go, really. It could be someplace far, a weekend at the beach or even just balik kampung. The point is to get out of your usual routines, because routines have a profound ability to remind us of the unfortunate event, which usually occurs while we are living our normal day-to-day lives. Being someplace new, witnessing the larger beautiful world or looking at other people living different lives than ours is a good distraction from a temporary hurdle (newsflash: all hurdles are temporary. All.)
2. Do Charity
We’re a bunch of whiners. We really are. When bad news occur we tend to hone in onto them and forget about all the other good things that we still have in our lives. Being physically involved in charity shifts our eyes to see others who are not as ‘privileged’ than us in many sense of the word. Going to the homeless shelter, for example, lets us see people who could only dream about having even a portion of the good fortunes we already own. I find that doing this will immediately shut me up from whining like an ungrateful twat, and helps me to look past my mostly mundane life problems.
3. Seek to Understand or be Understood
In a recent post, I mentioned how every single person has a reason for being who they are. There are things that happened to us that shape us. Understanding people and why they could’ve done the things they did can significantly reduce ill thoughts and expedite love and forgiveness. It is hard to hate or be angry at things we understand, and vice versa. At the same time, good things can come from letting yourself be understood by others. Talking to someone who might understand how you feel is an amazing remedy. It is wonderful to be loved, but it is profound to be understood.
4. Start the Day Off Positively
I once read in a self-help book that much of what happens during the day is significantly affected by how be begin it. There is truth to why the happiest people in the world begin the day doing something positive – some people find early enlightenment through meditating, reading, praying, Yoga, or even just having a quiet moment with their own thoughts before venturing into other things for the rest of the day. It’s worth discovering what your own happy wake up routine is and investing a little time in them in the morning.
5. Find Humour
Did you ever realise that most of your happiest relationships have a lot of humour in them? My family have a thing we like to do whenever we are going through a rough patch. We sit around together, whether it’s in a car, at the dinner table or just watching TV, and we joke around and have a good laugh. There is always humour in everything. Always. No matter the differences, the tension or strain life challenges can cause, having a bit of humour with it will a make a world of difference in our emotional state.
There is no such thing as smiling too much. In fact, we don’t smile enough. It’s the whole ‘fake it till you make it’ notion. Smiling attracts positivity. The best part is, smiling is actually the easiest way to positively contribute to society. Just a small act can make a stranger’s life better. One time, I was chatting to a waitress and she told me how sometimes, after long hours of hard work at a minimum wage, the only thing that makes her day were customers who smiled at her and acknowledged her as a person. I’ve never forgotten to smile and my serving waiter/waitress ever since.
7. Latch Onto Positive Things/People
For God’s sake, if you find something or someone who gives your soul positive happiness, hold on to them. Sometimes, they are the only few things that could help us cope with bad times. If there is someone in your life who’s positive and has the ability to elevate you, keep them. If there is a hobby, passion, or even a favourite TV sitcom that can make you smile, indulge in them. Encounters with people or a new discovery in life are never without reason, and best believe that some of them were meant to pop into our lives to make our days much, much better.
On the second day of my little weekend getaway, I was finally doing what I had been daydreaming of doing for weeks now – I sat in my comfy knitwear for hours to read a book, enjoy a pretty view and gorgeous weather, drink some tea and stab a voodoo doll (okay kidding). It was the best, serene feeling of doing nothing, and my mind was now free to revisit some of the things I had thought of reflecting on, but had no time to do so. I have an imaginary shelf in my head where I would store thoughts ‘to be revisited’ when the time and space allows me to. So far the top 3 things are; ‘do babies cry in the womb?’, ‘foreign exchange policies’(snore fest) and ‘forgiveness’.
Forgiveness is an even more daunting task than apologizing. Apologizing requires surpassing one’s ego to do it, but forgiveness requires surpassing one’s ego to do it AND choosing to see a person in a positive light AND giving others the benefit of the doubt. But newsflash; it is made even harder when the person you are trying to forgive is yourself.
Like a lot of other people, I am perhaps my own worst critic. When something does not happen the way I had hoped or planned, I am quick to turn the blame on myself first. Perhaps it is due to the opinion that although I can’t control situations, I can certainly control me. Why did I act out of anger? Why did I say that? Why did I do that? Why would I make that bad decision? Sometimes there are words I expressed that I wished I had not said, circumstances I wished I had handled better, or even things I wished I had fought harder for. It is true that the heart is the mind’s braver sibling, but sometimes it deludes us to make hasty emotional decisions and reactions we later regret.
In circumstances such as these, it is helpful to perpetually remember this – there is always a reason for why people are the way they are. Understanding this makes anger more irrelevant and forgiveness more prominent. Perhaps a person did that because they have fears, just like we all do sometimes. Perhaps we ourselves acted a certain way fuelled by our disappointments of an expectation, and isn’t that natural? I realised that the twenties is a crucial time to experiment with the concept of empathy, and the balance between heart and head (in between the raging hormones, the self-searching and the quarter-life crisis. How exciting.).
As a conclusion, I once came across a beautiful saying, which have evidently helped me through countless times. It says, “How many times should you forgive yourself and others? As many times as you would like God to forgive you”. I find that it speeds up my own forgiving process, even that one time a mean boy came up to me when I was 15 and called my face ugly. I still despise you, you punk.
One day in 2016 a random monkey was accidentally shot in the forest reserve behind my house and proceeded to climb its way to my apartment’s balcony, go on a rampage on all of my herbs and died a bloody death with blood smeared all over my balcony floor and glass door. And with that, it had successfully represented some parts of my 2016 – full of surprises, horrifyingly funny, a little bit sad and unfathomably eventful.
But most of all, 2016 had been nothing short of wonderful.
A quick revision of 2016 resolutions will tell you how it really went, planning-wise – yes, I did finish one personal project, no, I did not explore one new place per month, no, my herb balcony plant idea went to hell, yes, I learned two new life skills (replacing toilet seats, checking car tyre pressure), no, I can’t sleep for less than 8 hours per day, and yes, I moved my butt to try a hand at doing charity.
And now that 366 days have passed, I am baffled at how much life never goes quite according to plan. Most of the big, awesome things that happened to me in 2016 was absolutely unplanned and uncalled for. And so the conclusion here is rather simple and succinct; life will take you places, sometimes places you did not think of being in, but it will be an amazing trip nonetheless.
Some of the things are ones you did not think you could do, but you did anyway and they were life-altering experiences.
Some encounters make you think outside your box, and subsequently change the way you see life altogether.
Some people started off trying to help you fix your broken kitchen light, but eventually they ended up helping you fix your own self again.
Some passions started off as just an idle pastime, and then they expanded and made your life more fulfilling.
Some losses happened so you could finally understand the true value of what you actually had.
As I sat and waited for the NYE fireworks show to start, I began to realise that it was no longer about the surficial novelty of being awed by pretty explosions or the crowd hurrah. I am way past that part of my life now. In fact, if I was just sitting on my own with a cup of tea on a chilly night looking at quiet stars it would be just as wonderful. Rather, standing there watching the bright city lights and colourful explosions served as a physical milestone for me, a checkpoint if you will, to remind me that time is fleeting, and within its fleeting moments we are presented with choices and chances. Some of which will never again occur in our lifetime, and should we choose to allow our fears of being different or stepping into an unknown territory supersede our choices, they will remain as possible future regret of missed opportunities.
So with that spirit, here is my main 2017 resolution. I will try to consciously and bravely take chances. When I am seventy years old, sitting in my balcony facing the sea at sunset, I want to be a content old prune smoking a cigar (this is how I picture it in my head. In reality, I find cigar smells repulsive), with no look-backs in regret about how different my life could’ve been had I been less worried about what people might think and more worried about not living a life as authentically as I possibly can.
Other resolutions are (and may be subject to change) – a full Yoga handstand, quit using cancerous artificial fragrances/products altogether, travel somewhere adventurous this year, learn to make souffle, try something new every month, swim more, smile more.
Here’s my biggest accomplishment for 2016; I learned how to replace my toilet seats.
Yes I did other things too. I learned how to do a yoga headstand unassisted, I climbed bloody Mount Rinjani (photograph), I lost all my ‘baby’ fat (my Mom lied, I was not cute at all and looked like blubber. But thanks Mom), I got a work promotion, I learned to make curry and I now know five extra Mandarin phrases (which includes “I’m tired”, and that is seriously important). But for more reasons than one, learning how to change toilet seats tops the list.
I learned how to change toilet seats because a guy taught me. And so of course it was no longer about just learning how to change toilet seats, and my 2016 becomes admittedly, undoubtedly and thematically about another person. And before you deduce this as a pining write up about what used to be, I will tell you why it is not and why this is important.
It is no secret that whether we like it or not, our lives are highly impacted by the people we meet along the way. I had always been a believer that you meet specific people at a specific time of your life to teach you specific lessons, and this one was no exception. And because most of my year had revolved around another singular person, I can’t possibly dissociate my personal development of 2016 from this story.
It was somewhat a chance meeting and the minute it happened I knew it was going to only get bigger. Each of us would probably have had that experience at least once in a lifetime, meeting someone that was rather unconventional than the usual but the gut feeling stayed and comfort kicks in anyway. It was the timing, too – I had just came out of a long exhausting dwindling road of a complicated relationship, and 2015 was mostly focused on my Dad being sick. In many ways I was bruised and battered, and in came a new being who turned my life around.
Through this relationship I had learned the big milestones. I had been so used to taking care of myself, and the aforementioned past relationship had given me severe trust and reliance issues. I slowly again learned that it was okay to let someone else take care of your sometimes, that it was not shameful to expose your weaknesses and vulnerabilities and to let others into your life even if you don’t think it is all that pretty to share. Most importantly, it is the self-elevation you get from the other person that must be truly valued. I did so many things I thought I was not able to do from sheer encouragement alone – from changing toilet seats to climbing Mount Rinjani and so many other things in between.
As I sat by myself in this last leg of 2016 with the empty slots that used to be his space, I measured the things I have learned this year and realised that I have all but forgotten to be grateful. People come and people leave, but while they were there I must have gratitude. A man can be sincere and kind and expect no return, and although I had trouble believing this before, I do now. I remember a distinct moment when I was watching him cook me a meal in the kitchen and I was wondering if that would last, if he would stay and if I was doomed. Alas, here we are.
2016 has been gracious. It was both happy and sad, but as always I learned most about myself in the presence of others. I achieved a lot of physical milestones but more importantly were the spiritual ones – I was brought to life again in many ways and believed a lot more. Knowing another soul will teach you more than any book will ever do, and this person who came from a different culture and background had opened my eyes to so much more, whether it was intentional or not. It is easy to be comfortable in life as you know it, but to step into something new, something different than what you had ever known will always be one of life’s greatest adventures.
So perhaps it is rather shameful to say that a year was mostly about a man. Perhaps. But perhaps the real shame lies in not recognising this gift, the lessons a person brings when they come along into our lives, adding values to change the way we see this life and the world even for just a little. And that for me is the biggest lesson 2016 has taught me.
When I was a kid at preschool, there was a high brick wall that surrounded the little building. Word had it that if you’re standing on top of that brick well, the view would be amazing. I was merely 3-4 feet tall, and the wall was much higher then than it is now. I wanted to see this view. So with the help of another boy (who was a wimp, because he kept cheering me on but refused to get up there himself), I climbed that wall on a fateful sunny day. If my preschool teacher knew I would probably be punished, and if my Dad knew I would probably get spanked. But I climbed it anyway, curious to see what it looks like from the top.
I fell head first and cut my eye so badly that I couldn’t open it properly for days. After that my Dad spanked me. But damn it, the view was really nice from up there.
That was my first recollection of me ever having any sort of bravery.
Bravery comes in many forms. Some are utterly useless, most probably driven by hormones and the need to explore. Once in college my friends and I went for a swim in the open ocean at 4 am. It was fun and I would remember it fondly, but do I think it was reckless bravery? Absolutely. Some are essential to teach you the deeds of growing up, and you would never be who you are today without them. It could be the travels you took alone to see the world, moving to the city miles from home, and even smaller acts like going to the bank alone and managing your own finances.
And some, the last category of bravery, are ones that would alter your lives wonderfully in ways you could never expect for yourself. This bravery requires you stepping out of your comfort zone and into a world unbeknownst to you. They could be as big as making life choices different from the norm that surrounds you, or as subtle as having faith in someone else or something else. As you moght've guessed, only the ones with a good pair would usually ever take up these sorts of bravery. Metaphorically speaking.
I have always found that bravery is essential to my attraction towards people. I am attracted to befriend strong women who show gusto about ploughing through challenges in life with a steady bravery. Unknown people on social media who are living a life I could only fantasize – leaving everything they ever knew and going on a journey to find themselves. And of course, men who are self-assured and brave enough to make their own life choices despite fitting in or not.
Sometimes I would lose sight of my bravery. This could be due to a number of things – past falls, the fear of being let down, intimidation of being different, or another world I am not familiar with. Whatever the reason is, I would divert my thoughts to that girl in preschool who cut her eye and got spanked just so that she could see the view. It reminds me that falling or stumbling will always be the part and parcel of being brave, but it would always be worth it in the end.