Posted in bloggers, friendship, relationships

Dear Old Friend

Dear Old Friend,

It occurred to me that I very rarely take the opportunity to thank you for being the kind of friend that I never knew I wanted but one I so desperately needed.

You see, I had a moment of clarity this week when I realised that life very rarely turns out the way we want it to. We don’t always get the things we want when we want them, and sometimes our prayers go unanswered.

There’s a reason for that though. Time and some higher powers at work know something we don’t. Because when life doesn’t give us the things we ask for, its because it wants to give us something better.

I’ve spent the past ten years glorifying a relationship that was probably more one-sided than I would have liked. One of the life lessons I’ve learned over the years is that when it’s right it should be easy. You don’t have to bend over backwards in order to feel secure in any relationship, because the best kind – the ones that are worth keeping – are unconditional. 

Ours is the kind of friendship that is free from complications. We understand each other so well that when both our phones died one time and we didn’t arrange where to meet up beforehand, we both made the executive decision to go home and just call each other once we’ve recharged our batteries. And we both knew that the other person wouldn’t take it personally, because that’s just how we roll.

You are the only person I could ever imagine going on a Euro Trip with. I don’t know how we did it, but we both grew up together AND separately on that trip. There was an understanding that we were going to enjoy the experience together, and I was glad to be there with someone who shares my interest in art, history and culture.

But there was also an implicit understanding that if at any point you wanted to do your own thing and I wanted to do mine, that was okay. Like when the time I wanted to go drinking in Berlin and you wanted to take photos of the Brandenburg Gate at night; or when YOU wanted to go drinking in Rome and I just wanted to curl up in the hotel with a good book.

We never put pressure on the other person to always be in each other’s pockets. We don’t need to see each more than once a week to stay connected. Heck, sometimes we go weeks without seeing each other.

But I like how we make it a point to know about each other’s lives. When something big happens, or when I have some random thought about how I think you look like the Black Panther, a simple howdy on Messenger will start a conversation that usually ends with us talking for hours.

We never stopped to think about how unique our friendship is. What’s normal for us is actually incredibly difficult to find. How many purely platonic guy-girl friendships have we known to exist? The answer is none. Its not possible. But we’ve made it possible, we’ve created the kind of friendship that works for us.

I guess in a time where we’re reaching the peak of our adulthood and we start to take stock of the relationships we’ve created and maintained over the years, its easy to be disillusioned when we find that we’ve wasted so much time and effort on a relationship that turned out to be hollow, or a friendship that did not stand the test of time and distance.

We’ve both experienced what its like to struggle to reconnect with someone who’s become a stranger, and we both know what its like to be unable to relate to someone who’s life choices has led him or her down a completely different path.

Its nothing personal, and its not to say that the other person is necessarily a bad friend. But I think that making the effort to stay in touch and be friends with someone – no matter the distance – is a choice.

Its very telling, the friendships that we chose to maintain and invest effort into. I think deep down we know which ones are worth it and which ones are not even worth the effort of being upset over. Sometimes the thing to do is to just cut your losses and realise you’re too old to cling to something that’s not having a positive impact on your life.

So I suppose I just wanted to write this blog to celebrate that. I wanted to celebrate our friendship because it is one my constants, its one of those anchors that I need in order to keep myself sane throughout the crazy rollercoaster that is my life.

I will always be here for you, even if I appear to be too busy. I’m never to busy to spend 100 minutes talking about everything and nothing at all. In fact, at the rate my love life is going you’ll probably have me as a permanent boarder on that loft that your new home conveniently comes with. I’ve already assessed where my bookshelves are going, so prepare yourself. Lol

Seriously though, thank you old friend. Thank you for cheering me on even when I get crazy ideas, for never making me feel like I was stupid for trying something when there was every possibility I would make a fool of myself. Thank you for the sharing and the laughter.

Listen here.

We are not allowed to become the kind of friends that only see each other once every seven years. We are not allowed to be sitting across each other in a restaurant one day and struggle so much to find a single topic of conversation because we’ve let ourselves drift too far apart, so we end up being on our phones half the time instead of talking to each other. That’s not how this friendship is going to end up.

Please don’t ever become a stranger, I don’t think I would know what to do with myself if that happens. Wherever life takes me, know that I am taking you with me wherever I go. And believe me, I will bully myself into your life even if you don’t want me there.

That is how this friendship will end: with you, me and a bowl of curry reminiscing about the good old days.

Love,

Anj

 

 

Posted in Books, murder mystery, relationships, Young Adult

Book Review: One of Us Is Lying – Karen McManus

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I freaking love being right!

So I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a while now and I bought it because its meant to be like a retelling of one of my favourite films in the world: The Breakfast Club.

But apart from the fact that five people who could not be any more different from each other, and who come from different high school cliques, suddenly find themselves in detention one afternoon, this book is NOTHING like that touchy-feely, feel-good 80s classic. Because five people go into detention and only four people make it out alive.

No one’s dancing on the library steps in this movie. Except for me, because I freaking solved this mystery halfway through the book. I dismissed it at first because it seemed far-fetched, and things kept cropping up that made me think another person did it, so I got a little bit sidetracked and confused. So when I got to the inevitable twist and the big ending, and it turned out I was right on so many levels? HAPPY DANCE.

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I am very selective about the YA books I read because I find that the older I get, the less patience I have for the unnecessary, pointless and ridiculous teenage angst that seems to make its way into a lot of these books. The cliches really push my buttons, and I feel like some of these books don’t give teenagers the credit they deserve.

This book sets itself apart from the rest by tempering the adolescent drama with humour, wit and most of all, intelligence. The main characters were really likeable. It heightens the sense of dread you feel when you’re reading the book because you really couldn’t imagine any one of the Bayview Four killing their classmate. I really felt like my heart would break if it turned out one of them did it.

I wanted to flip through the ending just to put myself out of my misery, but I resisted. 

This isn’t a lighthearted book, my friends. It has murder in it, but more than that it exposes all the ways that people can be so thoughtless of how they treat other people, and the devastating consequences that follow. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: teenagers are some of the most cruel group of people in the world, and high school can be a very dangerous place.

Think about it. An entire population of hormonal, confused and angst-ridden kids all gathered in one place? Its a disaster waiting to happen. Who ever thought that this was a great idea? I’ve lived through high school, and while I made it through unscathed, you could not pay me enough to go back there again.

I guess, apart from the incredibly riveting murder-mystery that is the central plot of this book, this is also a social commentary of what happens when we insist on using labels to identify people: the jock, the brain, the princess, the rebel and the outcast. Why does it have to be so definite and one-dimensional?

Why can’t the princess be smart? Why can’t the jock be rebellious? I think that human beings are capable of having so many different facets to their personality and doing so many things at one time, that putting them in the tight confines of a box that’s labelled with just one thing is the real crime.

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Social media just adds fuel to the fire too. I mean, back in MY day (God, I feel so old), you only have to worry about people whispering about you in the hallways of school. Now, any thing you do could be all over the internet in an instant, with one click of a Submit button. And it will be there for the world to see.

Sometimes I think technology, and certainly Facebook, has made a profit off making our lives miserable. And yet there we are, most hours of the day, logged on and being willing slaves to Mark Zuckerberg’s invention.

Anyway, the book does end on a positive and redemptive note. It was a very satisfying read for me even though I figured out most of the plot twists. It was good writing and good storytelling, and this isn’t a book that I will forget any time soon. Well done, Karen McManus.

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Posted in Books, relationships, Reviews, romance

Book Review: The Blue Afternoon – William Boyd

 

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One Tuesday morning, one of my favourite surgeons randomly said to me “So Angie, I never knew that the at one point the Philippines was at war with America.” I thought to myself that this was an incredibly odd topic to bring up out of the blue. I had no idea where this came from and where he was going with this statement.

It turned out he’d read a book by William Boyd that was set in the Philippines around the time that the country was under the rule of the US government, and he recommended that I put this book in my massive to-read pile because he was sure I’d find it interesting. I was curious enough to look it up on Goodreads, and I became convinced that I should read this book when I found out it was a love story.

I was under the impression that this was going to be another one of those war books that people seemed to like so much. In my head, I imagined scenes similar to Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale on Pearl Harbour and it would be all angsty and heartbreaking.

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Cue tears and boxes of Kleenex. 

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It soon became clear that this was in no way similar to Pearl Harbour. Sure the premise seemed to follow the pattern of romance novels set in that era. Daughter meets her long-lost biological father and ends up helping him in his quest to find his long-lost love.

With nothing to go on but rumours and an old photograph, they set out for Portugal in the hopes of a happy reunion and along the way, this epic love story was told to the daughter in retrospect. I thought for sure that I already knew where this was going. I was so smug in my belief that the ending to this novel was a foregone conclusion.

How very wrong I was. 

Warning, there will be spoilers ahead! 

To my everlasting surprise, this novel had mystery, passion, deception, intrigue and yes, a bit of romance if one stretches one’s imagination enough to call infidelity and faking your own death romantic. 

This wasn’t a story about love so much as it is a story about desire and the lengths someone would go to in order to satisfy that desire. I’m sorry, but the hopeless romantic in me still believes that love is not love if you can’t shout it out on the rooftops, and that when it’s right it should be easy. This pairing was neither right nor easy and it certainly wasn’t love.

So yeah, the love story wasn’t what I expected it to be. The good thing is, though, that this book had a lot of things going for it that kept me turning the pages even when I was so exhausted from work.

First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever read a published international novel that was set entirely in the Philippines. I’m glad we’re getting that level of exposure as a country and that our history is being discovered by people who read William Boyd.

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I often think its a shame that we don’t make enough of a point of sharing our vast, colourful and interesting history. We don’t make enough of an effort to invest in museums that show the world what we’ve gone through as a nation and as a people. They can and should make a large-scale Hollywood movie out of it, in my own totally unbiased opinion.

The description of the setting was also authentic and incredibly atmospheric. It felt like I was transported to Manila in the  turn of the century and watching the sun set over Manila Bay. I had the sudden urge to fly home and explore the remnants of the walled city of Intramuros.

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Sunset over Manila Bay. Photo credits to Pinterest as I’ve actually never been here myself. I KNOW. SHAME ON ME. 

The other thing I liked, and which should not have surprised me given that it was a surgeon who recommended this book, was that it showed the evolution of medicine in the Philippines.  The nurse in me found this all very interesting. Medicine and surgery play a central and pivotal role in this story, and my inner geek was shouting with glee when I realised just how pivotal a role it played.

Anyway, I’ve blathered on for far too long when all I really wanted to say was that I really liked this book and I’m glad I gave it a shot. I wasn’t sure about the author’s writing style initially, but it grew on me because the plot was just so damn interesting. There were a lot of unanswered questions at the end, and to be honest the ending was ambiguous as hell. But that’s part of its charm I suppose.

I really recommend this book to anyone but most especially for people like me who might miss home every now and then. 

Cheers bookworms! xx

 

Posted in relationships, Self-Discovery, Stress Relief

A Letter From Me to Me

Dear Self,

For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always been a fast learner. However, there’s one lesson that you’ve wilfully and consistently failed to learn: the lesson that, no matter what you do, you will never be able to please everyone. 

It’s frustrating for me to see how you bend over backwards in an effort to be “universally loved”. IT’S NEVER GONNA HAPPEN. Not because your efforts are lacking, but because that’s just the way the world is made.

Whenever someone comes up with an idea, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will always be one naysayer for every fifty supportive comments. This shouldn’t bring you down or stop you from making similar efforts in the future.

No, what you have to do is to file experiences like these under the heading of Character-Building. Its not good for anyone to think so highly of themselves anyway. We need detractors to keep us humble and to keep us grounded.

We need negative people to inspire us to do even better next time. Success truly is the sweetest revenge; if you can’t change their minds and their opinions about you or about what you’re doing, you can at least prove them wrong when you throw proof of your success in their face. 

The point is, you just have to remember the reasons for why you do the things you do. You’re not doing it to gain praise or for people to like you; you’re not looking for appreciation or any sort of reward.

No, you do the things you do because you genuinely believe in them. And that kind of conviction is a strength to be cultivated; it is what will make you go far in life despite people trying to drag you down.

There are more people who appreciate you than you know. They may not always say it explicitly but they are there to support you, your ideas and the essence of who you are. Those are the people worth listening to.

Actually, if I could have one wish for you, it would be this: that you’d have a better ability of filtering people’s comments so that you only give credence to the opinions of people who are worthy of your respect.

Don’t ever let anyone dull your sparkle. I know its difficult to stay enthusiastic and engaged when you’ve been disappointed by people so many times before, but if you lose sight of who you are (and if you become negative as a response to the negativity being thrown at you), you’re letting them win.

DON’T LET THEM WIN.

So yeah, you can’t please everybody. And nor should you try to. You are not obligated to set yourself on fire just to keep somebody else warm. Do not take to heart comments that are so far beneath you that they’ll need a shovel to dig them out.

Have a little cry about it, its a natural response to people hurting your feelings. But pick yourself up and remember the eternally wise words of one Taylor Alison Swift:

Don’t you worry your pretty little mind, people throw rocks at things that shine

Chin up anj, everything always looks better after a good night’s sleep. If not, well, that’s what chocolate is for.

Love,

The More Rational Side of You

 

Posted in bloggers, Books, Feminism, relationships, Reviews, women

Book Review: Anatomy of A Scandal – Sarah Vaughan

Now here’s a blinding flash of the obvious: sex, lies and scandals sell.

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Anatomy of a Scandal is the latest in a string of novels that tackle the subject matter of marriage and infidelity, and how passion can make anyone do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Honestly, I have long since removed my rose-colored glasses. I no longer see the world through the filters of my childhood Disney influences. I am grown-up and realistic enough to accept that there’s no such thing as perfect relationships.

However.

I am increasingly frustrated by the way marriage is portrayed in the number of books I’ve read recently. I mean, is nothing sacred anymore? When did fidelity become the exception rather than the rule? When did society learn to turn the other cheek when a husband is caught cheating on his wife or vice versa? When did we become so blasé about something that – to me- is so fundamentally wrong?

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Okay, now that I’ve had my little rant, let me try to actually get a coherent review of this book out.

Anatomy of A Scandal is actually a courtroom drama more than anything else. A charming and influential MP is accused of rape by a woman with whom he’s been having an affair with for several months. This makes the case trickier because the issue of consent is blurred by the fact that they’ve had consensual sex several times prior to the incident in question (a quickie at the elevator right at the heart of the Houses of Parliament, HONESTLY).

This book really gets down to the nitty-gritty. For all that I hate the fact that this is another book about a cheating cretin, I really do admire it for the awareness it brings to the public about the kind of rape where consent is a grey area rather than a clear-cut case of “she didn’t want it”.

According to this book, the prosecutor has to make the jury believe that at the point of penetration, the accused was fully aware that they victim did not consent to the act. So really, she could have been enjoying the foreplay but if she didn’t want to go all the way and yet the man still insisted on scoring a home run, its still rape. I never knew that.

This book also brings to light the reason why so many victims do not come forward about their experiences. I mean, I don’t mean to generalise, but there is so much burden placed on the victim to provide proof of rape. And when you do come forward, your character and history are scrutinised, criticised and judged by everyone involved; your business becomes everybody’s business.

If you’re somehow the kind of woman who likes to look good, dress sexy or flirt every now and then, people seem to think you deserved what happened to you. As if one thing led to the other. As if there was no distinction between being a flirt and unsolicited sex. In this case, the odds against the victim are stacked even higher because she was “the other woman”.

It’s book likes these that make me thankful that the world is now paying more attention to things like sexual harassment in the workplace and that victims of assault have found their voice through movement like Time’s Up and Me Too. Where there once was just ripples in the ocean, feminism is now making waves. And thank God for that because its about damn time that abusers (and I’m not saying that they are exclusively of the male variety) finally answer for their sins.

Anyway, this book isn’t really a crime novel, nor is it the kind of book you pick up if you want to enjoy a fast-paced and thrilling plot. The story unfolds gradually, and in a non-linear fashion through the use of flashbacks. There were very few plot twists and none that you wouldn’t see coming.

It’s told from several point of views, one of which is the wife of the accused, which is why I went on the whole cheating rant because I just felt so sorry for her. I mean, you work hard to maintain a marriage, you compromise in order to make a partnership work and you think things are going along swimmingly AND THEN you’re completely blindsided not only by the discovery of an affair but by a far greater and more public scandal. Its enough to turn someone off the whole institution of marriage altogether.

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I think I’m going to read a romance novel next just to remind myself that the world is still a romantic place and that as long as the people in it continue to believe in true love, hope still springs eternal. Sappy, I know, but I need to take this belief with me when I go to sleep at night.

Because if love no longer exists, and all we’re left with are the lies and the scandal and the constant infidelity, what is the point of waking up in the morning? Scary thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in bloggers, dating, relationships, Self-Discovery

Pavlovian Instincts and Toxic Relationships

Its been more than a decade since I took Psychology 101 in college but one of the first things I remember reading was about Ivan Pavlov’s experiments with a dog, a bell and a piece of meat.

As the story goes, Mr. Pavlov would simultaneously offer the dog a piece of meat every time he rings the bell, conditioning  the dog to associate the ringing of the bell with the appearance of food. He repeated this several times until it got to the point where the dog would salivate every time the bell was rung, with or without the meat.

I’d like to think that as human beings we’d have far more control over our impulses and actions than the dog in this story. But the Pavlovian technique is famous for a reason, because it is more or less an accurate reflection of human behaviour – or at least it IS in some cases.

I think of myself as a reasonably intelligent woman. I’m strong-willed, independent and capable of making it on my own, with or without a man. In fact, I’ve been told quite recently that I am the perfect example of an alpha female. Of course that person also said I have the tendency to be so bossy as to be completely intimidating, but hey, I’ll take that as a compliment.

However, the sad truth is that – just like everyone else – I have my own weaknesses. One in particular stands out as my kryptonite, my achilles heel, my very own Ivan Pavlov with that damned infernal bell.

You see, he rings that bell and I am conditioned to come running. He then tells me to jump and I’ll simply ask ‘how high?’. I’ve associated him with so many good memories and so many good feelings that even now, even after the struggles I’ve gone through to build back the broken pieces of my self-respect, all it takes is one message, one phone call and I’m right back where I started.

It’s as if the past 6 or 7 years never happened. As if I’m still that sad, lonely, overweight and broken-hearted girl whose self-esteem was so low that she had to turn to food to comfort, thus perpetuating a cycle that took the better part of the decade to break.

Why do we do this to ourselves? 

The stupid thing is, the feelings that initially brought on the impulse to please don’t even exist anymore. I’ve thought about this all day and all night and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t possess even a single hope that this story will end with the two of us together. That ship has sailed a long long time ago.

So why am I bending over backwards trying to do so many things for a person who doesn’t even acknowledge or appreciate it? Who thinks he’s entitled to my time and efforts? Who takes it for granted as his due?

I don’t know. 

All I know is that I am not a dog. In fact, that is an insult to dogs. In this scenario, dogs probably possess more intelligence than I do. Their EQ is probably higher than mine is at the moment. At least they know who deserves to have and keep their loyalty.

There are so many things that I still want to say but if I say it all at once this blog is going to turn into a book. I guess I just needed to get this off my chest. I have come so far to fall back on bad habits and toxic relationships now.

I’ve learned – or at least I thought I did – that I need to cull out those relationships that do nothing for me. Even if that leaves me single and with only a handful of friends, its still better than tolerating something that’s bad for me just because I’m afraid to be in my own company. I happen to love me, especially the me that I am now.

I’ve worked so hard to make peace with the kind of person that I am, to get to the point where I can look at the mirror and feel pretty, and where I can look at my life and feel proud for what I’ve accomplished. This week has felt like a step, no, a huge slide backward. And all because my Ivan Pavlov rang that bell.

It stops now. Enough is enough. I am taking that bell and crushing it with the force of my will, and then I’m throwing it into a metaphorical ocean so that I will never hear it in my head ever again.

I refuse to be an example of the conditioning theory. Go to hell, Ivan Pavlov. Go to hell and leave me alone.

Posted in College, friendship, relationships, Self-Discovery

Dear 21-Year-Old-Me

A friend of mine recently posted a Facebook status to remind everyone in our year that its been 10 years since we graduated from college and we are, in fact, getting older by the minute.

Honestly, you could not pay me to be 21 again. At 21 I was heavily overweight, insecure, confused and emotionally stressed. I had no idea what the future had in store, all I know was that I was damned petrified of it.

At 21, I was looking back at my college years with some measure of regret for the things I’ve done and the things I didn’t do. I think I was having some kind of identity crisis because I felt like I could have lived a little more in college, and by live I mean drank more alcohol and maybe partied just a little bit more.

But its different when you see things from the 20-20 perspective of hindsight. So I have just a few things to say to my 21-year old self.

There’s a place for everything and everything in its place. Do not worry that you’ve never experienced an overnight party or had a hangover. In 4 years you’ll find yourself vomiting up those unfortunate shots of Jaeger bombs somewhere in Lambeth North station in London of all places and you’ll tick that off your bucket list.

It will take you a good five years to get over your current “great love” and the source of your emotional stress. But get over it you will, and you’ll be a better person for having gone through it.

Finding our true love is proving more difficult than I thought. Prepare yourself for some rough years ahead. Haha

Your years as a clinical instructor will change you in ways you’ll never imagine. Be prepared for “scandals”, be prepared to be hurt but take comfort in knowing there’s something great waiting around the corner. So sign that job contract, do not even hesitate.

You will find yourself thanking the stars time and time again that you were intelligent long before you grew into your looks. You’ll find ways to cheat physical beauty later.

Try and go easy on the cakes and the steamed rice and the servings of lechon. But don’t worry too much about your weight. We will find a happy balance in the future and we will learn to love our body. Mostly.

The people you meet in college are some of the best people you’ll meet in your life. Don’t be afraid or intimidated by how different they are from you; those differences are the very reason why they were brought into your life. By the way, 10 years from now those people will still be grateful you chose to study instead of party. Almost as much as they’ll still be talking about your wonderfully loopy handwriting.

Give yourself credit for the things you’ve done. You are more or less a good person, and at least you can take credit for trying to be one.

Do not listen to that voice in your head telling you you should have gone into medicine. That’s not your calling.

Be nicer to your family. Even your annoying siblings and cousins. They will soon become some of the best friends you’ll ever have. Yes, even your brother.

Hey by the way there’s this thing called Instagram that you may want to invest money in. Lol

David Archuleta will not win American Idol. You’ll get over it.

In about 10 years, you’ll find yourself a bit more settled, in a foreign country and having experiences you never thought you’ll have. You’ve travelled, you’ve met new friends, and you’ll still be scared and confused most of the time…but really, 21-year old self, relax. Don’t worry too much about the future. We’ll be okay.

You’ll soon find yourself where I’m sitting, giving yourself a pat in the back saying, “We did good.” So for now, enjoy all the years in between. See you soon. Xx