18 August 2017

What's The Meaning of Life

As the day of my departure to Indonesia is drawing nearer by the hours, I found myself staring blankly at the streets below, questioning myself ‘What’s the meaning of life?’

True, in all its cliché, corny notion, I found myself wondering if the reason I’m traveling and hiking and generally exploring the world is a means for me to decipher the meaning of life. 

Mount Kerinci awaits me a few thousand kilometers away. I imagine the cold winds of the mountain, pelting mercilessly at me while I hike the slope. My imagination of the cold sensation brought me back to the memory of Korea, 8 years ago. 

It was winter, with a record low of negative twelve degrees in Celsius. Everything moves fast in Korea, even the evening arrives earlier. 

Walking down the streets alone at night, I marveled at how different life in Malaysia seems. Everything moves fast in Malaysia too, but the people seems to be enjoying life more. The first snow arrives while I was outside walking on the pavement, I looked upon the sky and tiny flakes of frozen water befell my skin.

It was tiny and fragile, definitely lighter than feather. But within the lightness of the snow I was finding a new reason to celebrate life as I was reaching another milestone of my journey. Experience snow fall: checked.

I saw the university soccer team practicing on the field in the morning and they wore extra layers of clothing. I thought it was peculiar, almost silly. But I couldn’t pinpoint what’s so funny about what I saw that I was in disagreement with. You should’ve stayed inside during the winter, I thought of them. 

The hallway always smells like coffee, no matter which building you are in. There would always be some person carrying coffee cup at one time, usually girls with muffler around their necks. The guys always wear round shaped glasses and The North Face black jacket, you couldn’t tell them apart.

Still, within this homogeneity, I could not decipher the meaning of life. It was another definition of life that I wasn’t aware of, but it was not the meaning I was looking for. 

Life moves fast here in Korea, even the bus arrives earlier than their schedule. This is how they live life, how they seek their meaning of life. Through repetition of their routine they figured life is a constant action day by day, and they lived in full understanding that that this is how it should be, and being good at it means punctuality is expected. There is really no endgame, just daily basis reality. 

Last year, when I first experience extreme cold in Malaysia, it was on a mountain. Unlike in Korea, I wasn’t enjoying this milestone at all. I was trembling, I was in shock. My body couldn’t understand what was happening – one minute it was sweating profusely and the next when I stopped, the wetness of the sweat on the shirt absorbs the cold of the mountain atmosphere.

Three weeks later, I hiked the three mountains called Yong Yap – Bubu – Tok Nenek, one of them being one of the seven highest peaks in Peninsula Malaysia. Still, what’s the meaning of life?

I thought I found it when I was lunging for air, my body craves achingly for oxygen. It was at that moment I realized that there are sensations that I never thought existed could be felt by my body. Extreme exhaustion. Extreme thirst.

But it was not it. So I was still searching for it, when my mundane routine life consumes me. I was trapped within the confusion of trying to find the meaning of life and giving my life a meaning. 

I thought if I pursued my study perhaps I would find it. Almost, but not quite.   

And as I am still staring the streets down below, I’m wondering if Kerinci is another piece of the puzzle. The 3,805 meters above sea level volcano would be my first giant hike this year, and that makes the journey a poignant, profound one. 

My flight is 6 hours away, and I am now fighting a war in my mind.



08 August 2017

A VIGNETTE OF MY MOTHER

My mom could no longer walk.

Though I hated to admit this so much, this has suddenly dawned on me; my mom could no longer walk. 

It happened so out of the blue one day when she was out of the house hanging clothes. My mother was standing there hanging laundry when suddenly she could not move her legs. And no matter how hard she tried, her legs just won’t budge, they won’t even move an inch. 

My mom had to crawl on the hot cement floor to get back into the house, while she began to freak out and cry. 

Things started to go downhill from there. My mom had to use a walking aid to walk – her legs had failed her.

Watching her trying to gain steps while she walks destroyed me. Climbing the stairs with her walking aid, even when it’s just one step at a time, is a complete torture to her. Sometimes she gave up and decided to stay in the car, in disappointment of herself. 

My mom is a strong woman. 

My father was absent most of the time during my impressionable stage of childhood. I never told a single soul about this, but when I was 8, my father went to KL to work as a security guard at Bank Islam until I was 12. I used to lie about this to my friends. I told them my father worked for the bank instead of guarding it. 

True, I am saying this with a pang of embarrassment, like I wish he could have done things differently. And I was so ashamed of myself for feeling ashamed of this. He was a rubber tapper when the commodity was priced at 60 cents per kilogram. The harshness of life got to him, and he became short tempered, always destroying furniture when he was angry. He left to KL one morning, when I could not wake up from my sleep. 

I was scared of him until one day he came back for good and I realized how fragile and weak and old he was, and I was sad that I had lost that part of my childhood with him that I could never reclaim. I went to school everyday not waving goodbye to a father and coming back to a house without one. But I never felt that emptiness because my mother completed my life. 

Seeing how my mom managed the household when my father was absent is sometimes heartbreaking. With too many children, the chores were almost torture. She managed on her own. We managed to get by. My older brother and sisters went to university while I went to boarding school.

I was severely bullied in boarding school. I was homesick, a misfit. I guess nobody ever had pity on me because they all thought of me as a rich kid. I remember whenever they searched us for bringing handphones which were not allowed back then, they would always single me out first, sometimes even commenting  “I look at your face and I know you have one with you.” An acquaintance once told another friend of mine he didn’t like me because he knew that I was a rich kid. I guess I never looked poor. And for that, I had to pay the price. They took no pity on me when they beat me up. 

They had no sympathy for me when I was crying after they slapped me across the face for something that I didn’t do.  

I remember writing a piece titled ‘Who’s my mother?’ for Mother’s Day essay writing competition at school when I was 13. Unknowingly, because they never announced it, I won the competition. My counselor met me in her room and told me in private that she knew about my mother more than I ever willing to share. 

Sometimes, I feel like I distanced myself from my mother since I went to boarding school because all I ever felt like was a disappointment to her. I hated to see her cry because of me. She cried for me when I was beaten. 

She cried for me when I didn’t call her for two months. 

She cried for me when I was crying for feeling lonely.

I could never be there when she needed me. Boarding school has taken me away from her. 

I disappointed her for not getting straight As for SPM. I disappoint her even now, by not marrying yet. 

And now that she could no longer walk, I feel useless. I feel useless looking at her with her walking aid, slowly walking across the room. She couldn’t even hold a glass of water when she walks.

The doctor told us her fall 6 years back when she knocked over the full cauldron of hot oil onto her body has wrecked her nervous system and it affected her ability to walk. 

My mother has suffered her own ordeal in this world. I could only hope and pray God would grant her happiness in the next.

Mak, I'm so sorry. 




03 August 2017

LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD (1)



"This kind of life is not meant for the good girl. Try as I might, in the end it's a cruel world." 
- Hollywood's Dead, Lana del Rey 

I hate to admit that I am one of those girls your girlfriend, your wife, your mom, your sisters – basically every woman in your life warns you about. I fell in love with a husband. Not mine of course, or else I won’t be writing about it now. Somebody else’s.
 
Women are not complicated beings, at least in my opinion. We know what we want, but usually we play dumb because dumb bitches are cute. No, don’t argue with me on that one. Furthermore, girls play dumb because they want to give their man that feeling of superiority, of masculinity from wanting to protect these fragile stupid creatures. As much as girls love to play dumb, men love to play hero. What is love if not make believe? 

First off, we clearly know what we want, the only reason guys think we’re complicated is because we hide our true intentions in our elaborate plans of tantrums, crosswords puzzles and riddles. We want men, our men to figure us out, every girl wants to be mysterious…ish at least. 

Me, being the sophisticated lady in my late 20s has outgrown all these stupid phases of playing games. I go straight to the kill.

You see, I have my own method of screening guys. I’d rather be alone than having to end up with the wrong man. My methodology consists of a few tests, and not many have passed them all. Many failed at the first one. 

The first impression matters the most. If I do not like what I see, there is no point of going deeper than meets the eye – and nose, and ear. I have to like how he smells, how he sounds like, more than just his looks. Sometimes I give pass if his voice stirs my womanity more than his looks does. I do not attribute this to shallowness, instead this is just personal preferences. 

The second test would be intelligence. Mind you, brain is sexier than brawn. I do not consider myself as a genius, and having a man who is at least at par with my own level of intelligence would be a requirement. I want to talk about the universe, JFK assassination, different genres of Americana-inspired music, Reddit culture, my favourite authors and their miserable genius.

The third test is chemistry. Some people could talk about many things with you, but the conversation could be as tedious as listening to a lecture. I do not want that. It’s not about boringness of a person or his energy level. I’ve met shy guy who conversed better with me more than those loud ones. It’s about complementing each other’s presence and enjoying each other’s company in both silence and conversation. 

The fourth test would be the most important one yet. His desire. I would never, I repeat, I would never pursue a guy who doesn’t show his interest in me, even after he passes all the previous tests. As much as a sophisticated lady that I am, I do not stick my nose where I don’t belong. I will tease that guy a bit, very very subtle hints. An accidental gentle touch here and there, harmless smiles, teasing jokes. You could see how he wants you in his eyes if he really wants you after you teased him. If I don’t see that sparkle, then game over. I don’t really mind. Like I said, I would rather be alone than ending up with the wrong one.

Contrary to what I’ve explained, I usually am very passive in my love-seeking adventure. These 4 tests usually apply when I am attracted to a guy, and I would usually use these tests to rule these guys out instead of justifying a pursuit. I’m too lazy and also, I hate the heartbreak that ensues. 

Thus this leads to my story of falling in love with another woman’s husband. This story shall not justify what happens. It only serves as a reminder to all of us that human sin, and we could not control our emotions despite our best efforts. And ultimately, perhaps in a love triangle, there are actually no people to blame.  

I thought my 4 tests were perfect beyond doubts, that I could use them over and over to weed out men from my life until I realized one day that it was unprepared for one thing; the wildcard that I shall call the X-factor. 

This guy from my workplace has the X-factor. It was his religion. 

I must admit, I’m a wild girl. Not in the social vice sense, no. I’m not the party girl nor the junkie girl, but I am not timid either. I stand loud and proud, I have no fears in life. I could dance and sing to my heart content. I have a wild soul. I’m an eloquent English speaker who graduated from an abroad university and speaks her heart out, I’m an adventurous girl who feels at home in nature. 

I pray 5 times a day nevertheless, and pay my zakat and fast during Ramadan, but I was never addicted to my religion the way he is. 

The way he carries himself makes people label him the Ustaz. And he was rightfully one. I was attracted to him the first time I laid my eyes on him. Right off the bat, he passes all my tests. I love the way he looks. His daring scent of Polo. The subtle hint of romanticism in his voice. 

He was intelligent alright. A degree in Mechatronic Engineering. Our first conversation was about heat transfer and the climate change. Not that we didn’t transfer any heat amongst us at that moment nor the climate of our relationship drastically changed. 

Chemistry? Absolutely. Our level of energy matches one another’s, though quite different in orientation. Him the James Deen 50’s Hollywood cool aura, me the eccentric crazy girl. Him the acid and I’m the base. 

And his desire of me was evident the way his eyes glimmer. 

For me, what attracts us to one another is the mysteriousness of the other’s world. He married his university heartthrob, a fellow religious girl they met from usrah and they have three children together. Their world revolves around the next, so to speak. His life was different than mine. A stable, exemplary family. How he talks in calmness and with words in remembrance of God, the way he behaves gracefully according to sunnah.
It was a mystery demanding to be unraveled. 

And he was attracted to my world, the chaotic nature beyond the boundaries of serenity. For him my world is strange, a girl like me is mysterious. I’m not the girl next door. I do not conform to the stereotypes of the girls he met along his life. He wanted to understand more. 

We did not flirt nor did we teased the first time around. I spent a huge amount of my time for work assignments with him professionally. But the attraction we felt for each other was imminent, inevitable, intense. 

We were both matured adults who understood well the magnitude of unfaithfulness. At the same time, we were both human beings who were being tested by God with our own betraying feelings. 

We did not admit it to each other, though I could feel it within my bones. We were trying to work around it, we did not talk about it at all. No confessions, no monkey business. We just knew we meant something for each other. I thought just like other crushes, this one will go away if I ignored it long enough. 

He began to occupy my memories, my thoughts, my dreams. I hated myself for liking him the way I did. 

But what was interesting to me was that his wife was never in the equation. This is not a tale of betrayal, of a love triangle. He did not do it in spite of his wife. I did not do this in spite of his wife. This is the story of two responsible adults, trying to work their way out of their own feelings. This is the story of two people’s natural, raw emotions for each other, no external factors whatsoever. It is as primal instinct as a mother’s love to her child.  

Women are not complicated human beings. I understood what I wanted.
 
…to be continued
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