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Contents of My Care Package

A polaroid picture of Goldy in all his magnificent glory.

Two moon cakes (One pandan, one i don’t know what flavour, both no yolks).

Two pairs of boxer shorts.

Two pairs of bedroom slippers.

Two bottles of grandmother’s medicine.

Two bags of Julie’s Peanut Butter biscuits.

Three bags of my favourite mini milk balls.

One packet of Mondo’s Vanilla Nougat that travelled from Perth to KL, then to LA, then to Madison.

One bar of Cadbury Chocolate that travelled from Perth to KL, then to LA, then to Madison.

Some stationery.

A pair of mittens that fit my puny fingers perfectly (no too-big holes for my pinkies).

One packet of white biscuits that I don’t know the name of that were bought from one of the alleys in Petaling Street.

Did you know? That care packages reflect class privilege?

I know my posts lately have been racially and culturally charged. The thing about the Jen in America is that she’s hypersensitive for a reason.

Her lenses are not clouded, she will call you out on your bullshit. She will also call herself out on her own bullshit.

Maybe it’s the classes that I take as well. In two of my classes, I am the only Asian.

In these two courses, I am completely immersed. In these two courses, I internalise.

In these two courses, is when the segregation and discrimination is magnified.

It’s a milestone, really. When your classmate comes up to you and is aware of their own privilege, it is monumental.

It’s a milestone, really. When nobody wants to pair up with the only Asian for group discussion, it is in your face.

Back to my class privilege though.

Maybe it’s the classes that I take that are bloody ‘white’ for a reason.

With class privilege, with white privilege, comes the privilege to take the classes I take.

It is either I stick out way too much or shrink too much in a class.

The thing about Jen in America is that she’s focused on debunking the myth of meritocracy.

The thing about Jen in America is that she’s focused on reclaiming the word ‘yellow’ without othering anybody else.

The thing about Jen in America is that she’s focused on challenging the rigid social norms that impede any form of productive exploration.

In the mean time, I will retreat to my familiar well-beaten running path.

In the mean time, I will let my rage and frustration, both cultural and sexual fuel my runs.

My Malaysian Resolution

Then again, I have never really stuck to any resolutions that I set out to achieve. The planning fallacy is very real in my life.

Studying abroad drives me in many ways to preserve my Malaysian identity.

Why preserve? What is there to preserve?

I recently scrolled through the opinions section on The Malaysian Insider website on a sunny Sunday afternoon all snuggled up on the couch. Dear reader, I did not need ice-cream. I found much comfort and solace in reading about the political landscape back home.

So, there’s two sections. Articles in English on my left, articles in Malay on my right.

I don’t touch the articles on my right. 

Why not, right? Malay is after all the official language of the country that I feel most attached with.

I do not notice my refusal to read the articles in Malay until I read on about the opinions in English.

I begin to realise that the more that I read in English, the more I am forced to confront my love-hate relationship with certain aspects of being Malaysian that I am ashamed of. That I choose to reject.

That I choose to only recognise English as my first language.

I then bring myself back to me now on the couch, all snuggled up underneath the blanket on a sunny Sunday evening in Madison, Wisconsin.

Why am I ashamed? Why do I refuse to acknowledge some parts of my Malaysian heritage?

Studying abroad has driven me to seek validation. To seek acceptance.

From whom you might ask? Whose opinions dictate my actions?

Therein lies my weakness, dear reader.

I resolve to try (yes, this transition is foreign as anything, pardon the irony) to read the articles on the right that are written in the Malay language.

I do this because I am not trying to prove or disprove a point, I realise.

I do this because I am not trying to seek validation or acceptance.

I do this because of individual choice (which if you think about it is actually governed by societal influence).

I do this because being Malaysian to me at least has nothing to do with whether or not I have to prove that English is my first language.

Your Penance is My Penance

‘We’re not concerned about that, Amwe. Don’t you know that sickness belongs to everyone? It doesn’t just belong to one person.’ 

I came across this line while reading up on the concept of breastfeeding within the Beng community for one of my courses.

I find it hard to be studying something that is considered ‘lain-lain’.

I also think that diversity and individuality can only bring you that far.

I need to consolidate but to be honest, I do not know how to.

I don’t belong in the research world. Nor do I in the corporate world.

I’m a drifter. I get a little bit of everything but I don’t delve any deeper.

You might wonder why. Why don’t I just stick to something? Why can I not specialise?

I wouldn’t know how to answer you. I don’t have the answers myself.

But now let me draw your attention to that sentence that speaks for the Being culture and I am in awe with all dat socially constructed philosophy that is embedded in those three sentences.

It’s a real challenge how you(I) make the choice to balance going against the flow and going with the flow.

This is because I am a contradiction. It is in my nature to be sensitive but I can be tactless too.

That little piece of philosophy is beautiful though.

I see its importance in how we live our lives. I see its importance when I walk into classes, when I am the only representation of my race and ethnicity and I look around me and all I can look back is at myself.

I also see its importance in Emma Watson’s overrated speech on #HeForShe.

It’s true. No matter the colour of my skin, the twang and slip ups that make up my American accent, or my decision to not shave my legs.

Everything belongs to everyone.

‘It doesn’t just belong to one person.’

The tentacles of my friday night/saturday early mornings

For a while, you like/love the detachment. It’s not something you would prefer, you know that to the bone.

It is conformity at it’s best.

It is saying that it’s okay when really, I cannot begin to comprehend this tiny little part of culture that can simultaneously give you so much and take away so much from you.

It is not something I’ll settle for. No matter how raw and exposed you can get if you choose too.

The uncertainty of treading in unchartered murky waters are full of wonders, sure.

Ultimately, underneath all that depth, there is nothing much.

To a certain extent, I get where you come from. I understand you as a person in all of your simplicity and straight-lacedness.

It is a choice you’ve made like how I’ve made mine.

Before we bid goodbye, because really, nobody will be there at the final farewell, you’ll close your eyes and I’ll keep mine open.

‘Courtesy is a way of life’

Maybe it’s just that I don’t see the point in talking over other people.

I’ve been struggling quite a bit with getting across my points in group discussion on the topics that I really, really, down to the bottom of my heart give two fucks about.

During summer, my first week back, my family was annoyed with just how ‘loud’ I had gotten.

I was more vocal. I had a bloody voice that I may or may not have abused to an extent that would not have been acceptable by Malaysian standards.

I do not mean to discount Malaysian levels of what is considered an appropriate tone to use in conversations. Nor do I believe that the American standard of being vocal is any less of a ‘standard’.

I want to do as the Romans do, really. It’s easier that way, isn’t it?

Maybe it is my insecurities too that get in my way. Maybe that is why I may come off as another passive yellow person in class (which is a horrible stereotype to believe and enforce subconsciously).

Bottom point is, in what way should you approach ‘having a voice’?

How do you get it out there?

I contradict myself.

On one hand, I have very strong opinions. On the other hand, my voice does not convey that. My skin colour doesn’t convey that either.

So what does? How do I get you to understand without you disregarding my opinions and sweeping them past by because my accent differs from yours?

I’ll listen to my daddy of course.

‘Accept the guai lous for who and what they represent.’

Accept, dear self. Accept, Jen. Accept.

My College Bubble

It’s a gloomy friday. It’s not even the middle of September and the leaves have started to change colour (have I changed too?).

I’ve been finding it difficult to sit down and write down anything substantial. Partially because my mind fleets across many archives in a matter of minutes so nothing concrete ever presents itself in any form of clarity.

I try to make time for prayer even though I pray after my dumps. I believe in prayer. I know I’ve mentioned this a couple of times but it’s been a force that has kept me in sync with the universe and my surroundings.

Running on the other hand, has taken the backseat. It’s challenging enough to run during the evenings after a whole day of classes and work. It’s even more tedious when it’s cold out. It’s even more of a pain in the butt when the wind threatens to uproot your physical being because you are still. quite light even after eating like your typical unhealthy college kid.

In the process of adjusting, in the process of doing the best with what I have, in the process of trying to accept Madison and its inhabitants for what they are, I have learnt to let go. To let go of my inhibitions. To keep an eye open for the silver lining in the little things of life.

Most weekdays I am swamped. Most weekdays I plunk myself down and get straight to any assignment that’s due.

Most weekdays when I wake up. I don’t feel so shitty. I don’t feel like I’m about to die.

I’m very much alive.

I’m very much aware of my surroundings although sometimes I am hypersensitive.

College is a little bubble.

My bubble has only begun to grow.

Can’t wait for it to pop.

While I’m at it though, I’ll try to let go. See you for who you are and be okay with it.

Adjustments of the sexual & cultural kind

Now, this is in no way the reflection of my personal life. 

It’s been back to the books and to the grind. Adjusting to the demands of my work and academics have been something that I’ve tried to make my top priority but knowing my scatterbrain attitude and sometimes forgetful mind, I tend to fall off the bandwagon for just a little bit. 

It’s fifteen minutes before my last class of the day and I thought I’d get something down just because. Just because I should write. 

The Midwest has not turned out to be my greatest self fulfilling prophecy just yet. For that, I am eternally grateful. 

The bug bites have been worth it. 

The late nights out in the hairy (i mean in the abundant) wilderness have opened my eyes to literally the sky at my fingertips. 

One of my greatest struggles right now is the unknown future. The uncertainty as I delve deeper into what we call the cycle of life. 

The thing is, I am quite fearless or if you choose to look at it in another way, someone just waiting to get her yap nipped. 

I overthink still, of course. My traits shine like they have never before. 

But I will bristle. I will roll my eyes. 

And I will dare you to ask me where I come from. 

Because really. 

You must be curious to know why I speak such ‘good’ English.