Let me just state for the record that there are times when I absolutely hate being an adult. Sometimes I find myself longing for the days when all my problems can be solved by a pint of ice cream and reassurance from mum and dad that everything will be alright.
You get a real appreciation for and understanding of your parents as you grow up I think. You begin to see that a lot of the time, adulting is simply about winging it. You fake it and hope to God you make it. As much as you try to use logic and as much as you try to weigh your options before making a decision, a lot of the time you make decisions on a leap of faith. All you can do is pray that you make the right one.
I suck at making decisions. Partly that comes from my desire to have everything. I find it hard to accept that in order to go for something I want, I have to give up something in return. I’m also really afraid of change. I’m the kind of person that gets attached to people, places and things. I’m incredibly sentimental. I remember when I was young (and stupid), my crush gave me a box of chocolate crinkles all wrapped up with a ribbon on top. I think I kept the box and ribbon for about 2 years and cried over it when, as puppy love tends to do, things didn’t work out.
This isn’t a post about puppy love, forgive me for digressing.
The point is that I get incredibly attached. But sometimes attached is just another word for stagnant. Or stuck. And there comes a time when you have to think about what you really want out of life, and where you see your future going. I’m now in a position where I can think about settling in London and making a life for myself in this city. Its challenging, especially in terms of having a career and managing your finances. Its important to love your job but what I’ve learned is that its also important to keep moving forward. There are a lot of opportunities out there if you have the courage to go for it. And practically speaking, you also need a job that pays the bills.
(If it were up to me, I would be a bookseller at Waterstones, to be honest. But sadly that career path is not in the cards for me.)
This isn’t a very coherent post and its very much a reflection of my mental state of mind. I haven’t been able to blog much because I’ve been confused about the direction that I’m going to take my career (and life) in. I’ve had to weigh whether what I gain is worth giving up something (or someone lol) that I really love. I’ve also found myself questioning whether I have what it takes for me to take that leap, whether I’m ready for such a big step and this is when I usually find myself listening to Miley sing The Climb.
If I think about it from a sensible and logical point of view, I think I already know what decision I’m going to make; at this point, its all a matter of taking the steps to get my heart to accept what my brain already knows. I really really hope that I’m doing the right thing not just for me, but also for my family (and my future family!). As soon as I make the decision and take that irrevocable step, I can resume blogging and doing my book reviews, hopefully soon.
I will be the first to admit that I suck at keeping a low profile. It’s not like I go out of my way to be visible or to live my life like an open book, its just the way I am. Where other people keep their cards close to their chest, I would fan them out for the world to see. If I’m doing something I’m passionate and excited about, the whole world will get a blow-by-blow account of every failure and every triumph. I see no problem with sharing so much of myself with the world. In an alternate life, I would have made such a fabulous celebrity. Lol.
The problem with sharing so much of yourself with the world is that it leaves so much room for interpretation. People will always attach different meanings to the things you do and often these meanings are a projection; when people judge you, how they judge you is more a reflection of them than of you.
When I was in college, I earned a reputation for being studious and a good student. For some reason, I also earned the reputation of being annoying and a braggart. I used to study two weeks in advance for every major exam because I cannot cram. I’m just not made to do things at the last minute. So inevitably, three days before a long exam I would be relaxed where most people were still frantically trying to finish revising. Apparently, I used to – unintentionally- rub this fact in other people’s faces. So where I thought I was trying to help my close friends study by quizzing them and sharing what I already know, I was actually seen to be bragging and telling the world ‘hey losers, look at me. I’ve finished studying. I’m smart, you’re stupid. Eat my shorts.’ Or something like that because for some reason there were people in college who thoroughly hated my guts even though for the life of me, I’ve never interacted with them in my life.
I suppose I can take solace in the fact that once people get to know me and my true intentions, they do eventually come to love me. Anyway, as usual, I’ve digressed from the point I was trying to make.
I find myself in a similar situation where people have twisted my good intentions and given it an entire new meaning. I have been judged; assumptions have been made. I ordinarily wouldn’t give it a second thought. Part of the consequence of being so visible is that you will inevitably have people talk about you behind your back, especially if you’re dealing with a group of people where this is so embedded in their culture. I’m not happy with that but I’ve learned to deal with it.
However, there comes a point when ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
I am not perfect. I have many faults and I will be the first to enumerate and elaborate on them in great detail. However, I have always been a hard worker. I have always tried to be a kind person. I do things because they’re right and because I genuinely feel it would help make things better, not because I want to take credit for something. In fact, one would say after college I have learned the art of humility. Pride cometh before the fall, after all.
So when someone tries to undermine all that I’ve done by talking about me behind my back, when someone makes it personal, and if this someone has been a consistent thorn on my side for God knows what reason, I ask you dear readers, what is left for me to do? Turn the other cheek and find comfort in the thought that a lot of it is driven by jealousy? Yeah, maybe. There’s no satisfaction in taking the high road though. And the point is, there comes a time when people just need to be put in their place, otherwise you just become a doormat. A confrontation is looming, and I am damned ready for it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that while you can’t please everybody, and that trying to explain yourself to people is an exercise in frustration (not to mention, pointless), there are times when you have to take a stand. The saying is right, you do have to choose your battles. I know that’s often quoted in the context of not fighting unnecessary battles BUT there comes a time when you have to realise that this is a battle you MUST fight.
Have the courage to confront when you know you’re in the right. Enough is enough.
I always knew 2017 was going to be difficult for me in terms of bearing the weight of society’s expectations. Two of my best friends got married this year, two had their first babies. Add the fact that I turn 30 this year and someone might as well be holding a ticking clock over my head (a ticking clock that sounds suspiciously like ba-bies, ba-bies, ba-bies, ova-ries to the sound of my mother’s voice).
I spent so much time thinking about turning 30, almost as soon as I turned 29 in fact. I had grand plans: I made up a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I turned 30 (of which I ultimately did maybe 5); I booked an annual leave for 2 weeks because I wanted to celebrate with a bang; I looked up flights to Vegas and Turkey and Santorini. I saw my 30th birthday as this looming deadline and I wanted to do anything and everything before this dreaded day arrives.
As always, reality got in the way; life – and living it- got in the way. I forgot all about my list. I forgot to be afraid of that arbitrary finish line that really only existed in my head. I got busy; I faced new challenges in my career, I was working towards getting my citizenship, I had extra curricular activities that needed my full attention and a blog to maintain. In short, I got busy living my life to be worried that it doesn’t measure up to everyone else’s.
And it was the best thing that could have ever happened.
A lot of people told me that 30, as cliche as it may sound, is really just a number. And its true. Your life doesn’t stop, or have to necessarily change, when you turn 30. Like, there are people who say you have to start thinking about settling and sorting out the future when you turn 30. I’ve been thinking about my future since I was 10. I’d like to think I have most of my life sorted, that I’m exactly where I want to be. But then again, if I don’t have my shit fully together, if there are still some things I’m figuring out, there’s nothing wrong with that.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we should try to mininise living our lives by numbers. Marry at 25, 2 kids and a successful career by 30, a mortgage in 2 years – the truth is, there is no one life map that fits all. There is no timeline that you need to follow. You get married because you’ve genuinely found someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. You have kids because you find fulfillment in being a parent and because you’re ready. You buy a house because you have a family. And because you’re ready. You are not obligated to do all of these things because you’re 30.
That being said, turning 30 does mean that you have to have a certain level of maturity. There are things that I wish to be better at and while I don’t need to wait for my birthday each year to start doing them, it seems like as good a time as any to start. So I made a shortlist of things that I WILL do this year:
I will take better care of myself
The only thing that’s true about turning 30 is that you’re not as young as used to be, physiologically speaking. Your body and your health become more high maintenance as you get older, that’s just a fact. Which means I can no longer afford to have a chocolate binge after a stressful day at work (which is almost every day). My family has a history of high cholesterol and heart disease. I have yet to lose all the weight I gained in 2015 (and have continued to gain since). All of this ends starting today. I will make a more conscious effort to eat healthy and exercise at least 4x a week.
I will save more money
Some people think that the answer to every financial problem is to find a job that pays better. Its not. The answer lies in living within your means. Cut out things that are not strictly necessary. Do I really need to have an expensive meal every weekend? Do I need more books? Do I need more shoes? Can I afford to go on that holiday? I may not be sending any kid to school or saving for a mortgage, but I do need to save for the rainy days. This is something I need to take more seriously this year.
Collect memories and experiences rather than things
In keeping with saving money, I need to be more selective about the things that I DO shell out for. Travelling is fine, buying a designer bag is not. I mean to each his own right? If owning a Prada bag makes you happy, more power to you. But I personally feel I should be investing in things that keep me sane, centred and happy on a higher level, not just materially. I am not going to suddenly become a minimalist (let’s be realistic) but I will try to be more careful about what I spend on.
Do what you love and love what you’re doing
I know that having a stable job and a career becomes more important as you reach your 30s. Everyone seems to measure success by how far you’ve climbed the career ladder. I disagree. Having ambitions is all well and good; aspiring to a better position and a better pay – that’s all fine. But I think being happy at what you do, and still being able to have a life outside work, is the true measure of success. Its no secret that I turned down a high-paying, higher-ranking job offer last year because I didn’t think I’d make as much an impact and because I didn’t think it would make me happy. I would rather stay at a job that will make the most out of my skill set and that will give me fulfillment.
Don’t be afraid to try new things
Like I said, just because you’re no longer a teenager doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for new experiences. Besides, I was always a late bloomer so I’m pretty sure there are a lot more experiences to be had. I just need to stop being so scared all the time and just try. There are things that I’d like to try but have always been afraid of, but the only other thing that’s true about aging is that you have to take every chance and every opportunity because life IS short.
Give dating another go.
Ah, everyone’s favourite question to a woman in her 30s. Why are you single? When are you planning to settle down and get married? I hate getting asked this question because it implies that there’s something wrong with being single in your 30s. Well, excuse me for being a little too busy to care. But. Lately I find myself thinking that maybe it IS time to get back to dating again. Not because society expects me to but because I want to. I gave myself a hiatus because I was so tired of all the bad dates and the dates that seemed to have gone well but always end up being a disappointment. I’ve kind of closed my mind to the idea of meeting someone because I was tired. I think its time to be open once again and just put the idea to the universe at large in the hopes that the universe will cooperate.
The one thing I hate about dating is that you make yourself so vulnerable, and I hate making myself vulnerable to anything. I feel like I have this wall all the time because I don’t want to risk being hurt. If someone gets to close, I go ‘dracarys’ and blow that opportunity out of the water (lol, GOT reference!). I sometimes don’t even realise I’m doing it. I have to be better at being more open and less afraid.
Ah, my 30s. People say it only gets better from here and I’m quite hopeful that it will be. I will be stronger. I will be wiser. I will probably fail epically on some of the things I set out to do but I have never been a quitter, and I’m not about to start now.
Today, I actually woke up hours ahead of my alarm and decided I wanted to watch an old movie before I have to haul my ass to work. Something comforting, something that will take me back to my childhood and to remember that feeling of innocence and wonder, that feeling that the world is full of promises and you have your whole life ahead of you. (Jeez, sometimes I think and talk like I’m approaching middle age! This turning 30 thing is really getting to me. Moving. On.)
So I decided to watch Now and Then. Back then, it was my go-to movie when I needed a boost. In those days before Netflix, one actually had to go to an honest-to-goodness video store to rent a movie. They even had them on those plastic case thingies with the movie poster on the front and the synopsis at the back. The movies were in VHS format and back then that was THE height of technology.
For most of the year, I went to school in the city. I was raised by my aunts and uncles because my parents had to stay in the country most of the time to run our business. They alternated months to come visit myself and my siblings. It was a rare privilege to have them both over and I can count on both hands the number of times they’ve done so when I was growing up, weddings and graduation ceremonies mostly. Not even for our birthdays – mum usually came to that one.
It sounds sadder than it was but it actually never bothered me that much, at least when I was younger. Do I wish I had more time with them? Sure. But I guess that sense of obligation and responsibility was instilled in me early on, and I always knew at the back of my head that without their sacrifice I wouldn’t have all the privileges I was enjoying: going to a good school, having everything I needed and most of what I wanted. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that I had if it weren’t for that arrangement.
So even as my brother and sister bawled their eyes out every time one of them had to leave, I tried to keep a stiff upper lip and put on a strong front. I did all of my crying in the toilet after, in private.
The point of all that backstory is to illustrate just how glorious and how hotly-anticipated summer vacations were to me between the ages of 10 to 15. Mostly because it was the only time my entire family could be together in one setting for an extended period of time. Back then, I was young enough to be excited over staying in the country. I used to like the fact that I’d be staying in a small town where everyone knew everyone else’s business, where simple pleasures were appreciated because there was nothing else to do, where the ocean was literally on our backyard (we had a seawall built to keep it away). Maybe because we were apart for most of the year, my parents – mum especially – tried to spoil us for those two months. We get to request what we wanted for lunch and dinner so she could cook each of our favourite dishes. We mostly get to do what we want – my brother could go hours and hours on the Playstation and no one would bat an eyelash.
Of course there were drawbacks. The place was a province and back then there were no phone lines built in town, let alone cellular services. The Internet was some futuristic invention and nobody could even dare imagine that someday we’ll have something like 4G. In a way that was a good thing, people actually had real face to face conversations instead of status updates on Facebook. Electricity was a fickle thing, and because it was a coastal town we were so frequently visited by typhoons even during the summer. My family had a generator at the back of the house so that we could still have some light during those extended days of rain and blackouts. We couldn’t keep it running for 24 hours though, so there was nothing we could do about the nights.
So it wasn’t perfect, but we were all together. And watching films is one my family’s favourite things to do so my dad would encourage us to go to the video store and rent the movies that we liked and we’d take turns picking a movie to watch. He always looked so dismayed when I came back week after week with Now and Then in hand. He could not understand why I was so fixated on the story of four girls growing up in a small town in Indiana.
Its set a time when they were no longer children but they’re not quite teenagers either. Everything is new, every experience is delicious. You start keeping secrets from your friends, especially when it comes to boys, because no one wants to be the first to admit that the enemy has suddenly become incredibly attractive. Its a story about enduring friendships and how important it is to have something constant to cling to when everything just seems to be changing.
All of my little adolescent crushes and youthful romances happened during that summer. I have to say, most of the time I was caught up in my imagination of what could be; nothing really happened between me and the guys I liked except for a few flirty conversations, a dozen secret smiles and a thousand longing looks. Everyone was scared of my dad, as he was one of the more well-known businessmen in town and had a reputation for being – well, not as friendly. Stand-offish. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t really allowed to interact with the locals. But my cousin was, and we used to ride around in a ladies’ scooter, cruising through the spots in town where the guys we liked were gathered just to see and be seen. I used to get so giddy during those moments and I’d come home with windswept hair, a slightly guilty demeanour and a secret happy smile.
I started writing a diary and pouring out all my teenage emotions and sweet little encounters. My God, i could fill pages and pages back then. I was blogging before I even knew what blogging was. I must have at least 10 volumes starting from the age of 9. I still re-read them sometimes, they give me a laugh. Its nice to remember that there was ever a time where my most pressing problem was how to catch a glimpse of the cute guy next door.
Watching Now and Then brings back the memories of all those summers, before I was old enough for cynicism to set in, before I became a bit selfish and unappreciative of the simple pleasures of life in a small town. Before i grew up and moved on to wanting more complex things. Its nice to remind ourselves once in a while that we don’t have to make life so complicated, that the secret to happiness probably lies in keeping things simple. Let’s all take a trip down memory lane with Christina Ricci and the rest of the girls.
P.S. i was gutted to hear that the actress who played the young Chrissy died of drug overdose. Rest in peace. 😢
For the next two weeks, my flatmate (who also happens to be my sister) will be getting lost in the streets of continental Europe, following a path that I myself traversed 3 years ago. I’m really proud of her courage to explore new cities and have unforgettable experiences. However, I can’t deny that the flat is really lonely without her. And its not just because I miss having someone to share the chores and responsibilities with, although I wouldn’t mind not having to prepare dinner after a long day at work. :p
Truth be told, I knew I would hate the thought of being by myself for the next fortnight. As Arlene, my sister, was preparing for her Eurotrip, I was already thinking of activities to do and people to do it with, especially since London has been having the warmest weather ever recorded in history this past week (we were hotter than Italy at one point!).
I’ve always been the type who can be comfortable in any kind of company. Put me in a room of strangers and I’ll probably make friends in about an hour. My friend once told me that I seem to have a knack for making small talk and making people feel comfortable about telling me things. I’ve honestly never really thought about it; it just comes naturally to me because I genuinely enjoy being around and getting to know people. But how meaningful are the acquaintances I make is another question.
As I reach the ripe old age of 30, I have come to realise that friends are not stickers that you collect and put in an album, to be looked at and admired but never really put to use. I think friends are more like expensive shoes. You’re on your feet all day so you don’t want to buy cheap shoes, you want to buy one that’s of good quality, that’s comfortable, and that you can wear in any weather. These shoes will see you through the good times and the bad; they will be there for weddings, birthdays and funerals. You don’t need a lot, you just need to buy your money’s worth and pick ones that will last.
At 29, I probably have less friends I can ring if I want to do something crazy like party all night. However, I do have a select few that I can consistently count on to have random phone conversations about nothing at all, or to prop me up when I’m feeling down, or support me when I have stupid ideas, or wait with me at the A and E because I’m having an allergic reaction and I’m afraid I might go into anaphylaxis shock (yes this has happened).
Most importantly, I’m learning that sometimes we need a little bit of alone time so that we can learn how to be on our own but not lonely.Who are you when you’re not with others? Can you live with the you that you’re discovering when you’re by yourself at the end of the day? These are thoughts that have been running through my mind whilst I sit in an apartment that is really too big for one person to live in (I almost, ALMOST wish I was back in a hospital accommodation).
Anyway, I just wanted to put my thoughts onto paper so that I can look back at this sporadically over the next two weeks. I am not going to have a sudden epiphany (I do have other things to do than self-reflection), but I think that if I find that I feel complete even in my own company, I’ll be more ready to give relationships a shot and less scared of putting myself out there or letting others in, and these two solitary weeks would have been all worth it.