Tug at Heart, Shape My Identity

Dear reader, I really like my mornings.

When the outside is blanketed in snow, when I am still groggy from sleep, when the world seems to be at peace.

Geographical imagination is something that I have learnt recently, amongst other things. It shapes/blurs my perspectives whichever way you look at it.

I have questions, many questions.

You see, I am cautious of the way I think the Ferguson incident affects me.

I don’t know how you look at it, dear reader but I might not necessarily agree with you.

As a citizen of this world, this little piece of history will affect me and you.

Think about the hegemony. Think about the ideas that influenced the verdict (it is not all black-and-white as you might think). Think about how race and violence affects America. Think about how American culture affects you and I in terms of foreign policies, in terms of what we consume, in terms of what the media tells us.

I do not champion this hegemony but the struggle is collective.

The influence of this hegemony is never-ending. The influence of this hegemony cannot be ignored.

Dear reader, I don’t think I am ever static. I don’t think my moral code is as rigid anymore. I don’t think it’s a turn for the worse though.

There is no eating away at my soul. There are only 3 (wo)man pile-ups on the couch as we sing lullabies, the Malaysian national anthem, and songs about Malaya’s independence.

I think I’ve established that I am rather erratic. That I can be rather reckless, sometimes. That I can be a nutter.

Maybe there is no legitimacy in how I live and I am not going to tell you to fuck off if I think that you don’t agree with me.

Though sometimes, there is much joy and liberation in acting like you’re intoxicated when you’re really not.

Happy thanksgiving, my fellow Americans. I am here, there, everywhere with you in spirit.

Damp Hair from the Rain

Image 1 of Jen's Front

Image 1 of Jen’s Front

Waking up to the Madison fog. Walking under the pitter patter of the rain. Skies gloomy, puddles of rain water mixed with fall’s shaded leaves. Sentence fragments that do not make sense.

It’s after all another Sunday afternoon as I sit in my pjs plus tights cause I’m too lazy to change into boxers.

It’s a good day to contemplate. It’s also a god damn good day to write my critical review.

But yet, I find myself itching to write here a little. As look out the windows at how wet everything is, I am content.

I feel like a child. I am antsy. I get the breathless spurt of youth and vitality. I am god damn content.

There really is no flow to this post I realise because my memories are fragmented at best.

But they are good memories, no matter how disjointed and disorganised this post sounds.

In creating wormholes as I slide and bump my way through my coming of age experience, I am swiftly swishing around.

In my own little pool of thoughts that I hold dearly to myself.

I know what is defective. I do not have answers to justify my actions.

These choices are the product of my swishy behaviour and reaction is something I am prone to.

This journey is inherently mine, inherently yours to disregard.

So as I meander along, as I acknowledge the intricacies and contradictions of my actions and thoughts, I am content.

You cannot abhor me for my choices.

Image 1 of  Jen's Back

Image 1 of Jen’s Back

Revelations of the Tanjung Bungah Kind

I’m a pj girl at heart.

Weekend brunches with the family at Village Park, O & S coffee shop or just tapau-ing from do re mi that’s a five minute drive away from home sweet home epitomise the pj things that your typical, Malaysian Chinese heternormative family of three, four or five enforce kinship and familial ties.

I’m a banana at heart.

With parents who both received Westernised tertiary education, who both loved to read, who both impaired their eye sight with reading while lying down or in dimly lit places, who chose to talk to me in English, who bought me the likes of Enid Blyton & Roald Dahl ever since I was a little girl, who took me out of Yuk Chai at the last minute to put in the now highly-regarded SKTM that at that time, was a humble Malay national school, who dressed me in the imported rejects of Baby Gap and Old Navy, who hit me with the cane and forced me to a play a classical musical instrument but at the same time imparted on me the wisdom to say no to resistance (which I usually often take too literally), there is not much reason as to why I am the person that I am today.

But, my attachment to Penang has never been something that I have given much thought of.

It is something that I take for granted seeing as ever since I was born, I’ve made the four hour car ride/forty-five minute plane ride to Pulau Pinang at an average of about three times a year.

I’ve made the pilgrimage almost every teenage year during the Ching Ming week, picking my way through the muddy uneven paths of the Mount Erskine cemetery, suffocating and having breathing difficulties as I pay my respects to my many, many great grandparents in places where cremated remains are put into urns and left to reside (aka temples).

I’ve stuffed my face with all the goodness of the food at Mount Erskine, Pulau Tikus, Air Itam, Tanjung Tokong, New Lane, Gurney Drive, and Sungai Dua among many other places.

I’ve also found companionship with a fellow Penangite where we indulged in desires of the burning passion kind.

I reflect on that blissful period of intimacy, attachment and joy. I smile at the memories of the exchanges of our lives where for the most part, we were never ever in the same country, let alone same continent.

I think back to that fateful day when I busied myself with technology while I waited outside the boarding gate for my connecting flight to Chicago.

I miss you, sometimes, dear pen pal. I think of you fondly, old friend.

Someday, I hope we meet. Someday, I hope we can look back on this, when we are both romantically involved with our respective partners and leading successful lives, when Snapchat becomes ancient, and we’ll smile that knowing smile.

Knowing that years before, the pj girl who identifies as a banana met the tanjung bungah boi.

p.s. some parts of the actual story have been modified to account for the privacy of individuals involved

V Matters

In honour of the V, in honour of the five monumental moments of my life thus far aka the fuck ups/successes in the past few (months?) (weeks?) (days?), I’ve decided to put together a little reflection because the V matters.

For the first time, it feels like it’s really hard to compartmentalise.

1. I don’t want to consolidate. I don’t want full-on, in your face recklessness.

2. I like how you see strength in my character even if it is running around in circles strength.

3. I like how you say that I have good intentions even though at times, tact gets the better of me but the sense of acceptance you give me as a friend is something that I know I often take for granted.

4. I like how you call me out on my privilege. It is difficult to convey my affection and concern towards you but know that I care deeply, know that I see so much value in us, know that I will be patient, know that I will be there when things hit rock bottom.

5. In a few weeks, you both will leave and I will just be another statistic. I have no regrets. I am content with my decisions when it comes to the both of you because in those hours, I learnt, I strengthened, I cried, I let loose.

As I sip on my teh tarik (“pulled tea” for the unfamiliar) and munch on my digestive biscuits, I reflect on my close encounter with unpredictable plans and the aftermath of unpredictable plans.

See, there’s an extent of desensitisation that I have grown used to.

I don’t want anymore unpredictable plans because the V matters.

Personal is Political

“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.” — Arundhati Roy

I think a lot, I think I have established that.

Arundhati Roy has played a part in how I think and what I think about. Along with the Peggy McIntoshes, Audre Lordes, Jackson Katzs, Indra Nooyis of the world, I grow along with the discourses that I scour the internet for. Arundhati Roy has shaped my beliefs when it comes to colonialism. Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things was quite a drag to read and I know I never finished reading the whole book.

As I am feeling a little homesick, I can distinctively remember where my copy of The God of Small Things resides on my bookshelf, meshed up somewhere with my copy of The White Tiger along with the books of other South Asian authors.In my decision to clump book genres together, I realise that I do not go by book genre, instead I go by geographical regions and that in itself, is an action defined by what the Western world has taught me about the world map.

I don’t see the connection between Arundhati Roy and affirmative action which is the topic that I wanted to write about.

Dear reader, I do not believe in affirmative action not just in America but also in Malaysia.

Dear reader, I am invigorated because I have had the opportunity to see how affirmative action creates a sense of inferiority, both within an oppressed group and a politically and racially privileged group.

In Malaysia, affirmative action is on the side of the majority. Affirmative action breeds mediocrity and that’s not the worst part though, I feel.

I do not believe so much in true meritocracy and the idea of honest work but what I am most concerned about is the inferiority that affirmative action perpetuates.

Affirmative action attacks the personal identity of an individual.

Affirmative action, to me forms shackles around your self-worth because at some point in your life, you will have to confront the idea that where you get in life has to do with your racial, gender, age, class etc. identity.

And that, dear reader is what worries me most.

Because when affirmative action attacks your core, when affirmative action creates this sense of inferiority, the idea of oppression is further intensified.

The idea of oppression is literally in your face like the feeling of wind against your Buddha shaped ears, cracking skin and chapped lips.

In memory of the sightings of the furry feline variety

It’s good to be back after a brief little hiatus.

It’s rather unsettling and weird that my hiatus cannot be attributed to me working hard on my academics.

The act of pouring my soul and getting some words out on the internet is a good tracker.

It’s a good tracker of the aspects of my life that are unrelated to academia.

Dear reader, it’s been an eye-opener ever since I’ve been away from digging into the inner crevices of my mind to craft this post.

I’ve experienced my very first low ever since I have been back in Madison. I have watched my demons tear down my happy memories and I experienced myself attacking my own self-identity.

I don’t remember what I cried about, dear reader. I do know for a fact though, that matters I have shed tears for lately are matters that are associated with my self-identity.

There is much liberation in crying for yourself. There is much liberation in crying for your identity.

There is much liberation in not crying for another person.

I cannot tell you if my life is on track. I cannot tell you that the past does not bother me.

For once in my life though, I can safely say that I am not living in the past.

And to the people who have contributed to the past few eye opening months, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude, affection and all the love my burgeoning bottom could possibly hold.

So, lace your fingers through mine, let’s sing Kumbaya and trust in my vulnerability like I trust in yours.

So, lace your fingers through mine, let’s sing Kumbaya and surrender your inhibitions like how I have surrendered mine (to a certain extent).

Quitting the Frolicking.

Ultimately, I crave definition. I crave meaning. I crave significance.

My quest for summer sexy vibes has somewhat waned. Like the leaves changing colour, I can feel myself shedding off a few layers of insecurities.

It is easier said than done.

What I know is that I cannot commit. I cannot commit to what I do not believe in.

There are fallacies in my logic of course. I do not think that I can use relativism as an excuse but if you are willing to go with me on my thought processing journey, you might be able to understand.

You might be able to empathise.

If you choose not empathise, it is okay. I think I have reached the point where I would rather chop off a few limbs than hang on to mangy dysfunctional maladaptive limbs that suck the life out of me.

The truth is a bitter pill we all have to swallow (or in my case, grounded into tiny grains before swallowed).

Saturation. There is so much saturation.

Quitting the frolicking is hard. Weeding off the frolicking will require a lot of effort.

Do you have it in you, Jen?