2014: A Brand New Year

The other day I made this dramatic, extensive list of goals I had planned for 2014.

I think perhaps a big part of why I make these lists is because it allows me to re-imagine a better, more successful “me”. In desperate attempts to rid myself of the filth and gutter, the bad habits and mistakes I have accumulated in 2013, the projection of a Jowee 4.0 is an exciting thing. Perhaps it is a form of escape. Should I achieve it, perhaps I would really be pleased with myself.

The list is truly epic, spanning five pages, with dot points and outlines, and sub-sections. I grabbed my favorite pen- the inky, flow-y, silky, “make you write inspirational” things pen, and with almost military-like precision, I quickly adopted what seemed to be a fool-proof methodology. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it, complete with suggestions and first steps and supplementary aid to make sure my 2014 is a success, UNLIKE my 2013, which was a total failure as far as life- years go.

MY 2013 was a terrible, sorry state if I have ever had one. My only plans were to “support myself” and “stay alive”. It was vague, I aimed low, I was unhappy, but at least I succeeded. In fact I think that was it, I was the most unhappy, internally, I had ever been this year. I was deeply dissatisfied with where my plans- or lack of plans took me. I was busy all the time, I did nothing meaningful it seemed. I am not exactly bemoaning this as a bad thing. In fact I think it is a very good thing, it makes me want to challenge it and take on life, and change it, right now.

In the following blog posts I am going to be sharing some parts of this “extensive” list. It is extensive because I have meticulously wrote things like, ” Stray away from using contractions in my writing”.

I think I can make it into four blog posts.





Do you read Murakami?

One of the questions I’ve been wanting to ask you is, if you read Murakami?

I’ve only read Norwegian Wood, and skimmed through some others, but one of the things I like most about his work, is how unabashed and unashamed he is about loneliness. He doesn’t shy away from the unbearable questions of our solitude or the fact that most of his characters are in fact, completely alone, and lonely, and searching.  I like how he echoes the thought and introspection inherent in humankind ( or himself) and doesn’t offer any of the answers to the complexities. Its such an existentialist philosophy. I find a great affinity with his characters that try to work their way in this life that makes no sense, and the whole ” the journey” is the meaning idea. Existential to the core.

A lot of people feel sad and nearly suicidal after reading his works, I did for awhile, I hated that book for awhile. It took me a good year and a little more thinking to finally see what I’m supposed to do with it. I believe the fact that everyone feels alone, even the most loved and popular, gives me some courage. Its just the equal ground I need to reach out to everybody, to connect, and to say what I mean. It pushes me to talk to those that I really want to, because life’s too short and beautiful to deny yourself the best of it. I want to talk to everybody. Perhaps that’s not a deep enough take-away, but it works for me.

I used to have a massive crush on this person, but somewhere during the week, we talked. Then the crush disappeared, and the person emerged. It was a comforting experience that sent me on a roll, to throw away all inhibitions and just allow myself the risks of feeling and looking foolish. What if all my predispositions about people are just … that- predispositions. I’m not always right you know? I would never know what this person is thinking or what that person is feeling. So, I should ask. I now begin to deny myself the privilege of snobbery, and to just talk to people. Something my supervisor said that time too when I was contemplating what to say to someone, or if I should even say it at all, ” You never know what people are thinking what… just ask…”

I’m not sure this makes sense to you, but for too long I’ve been in a position of pride mixed with fear, and shyness, and just pure awkwardness. For the people I don’t like I mostly think they are egotistical and arrogant, and I’m convinced I’m right. But I have been wrong before.This is foolish if you really want to live, and I really want to live.

A Panic Attack

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a panic attack. I think I’ve had something close like it. I felt my heart beat out of my chest, I couldn’t swallow air, my oral cavities were stuck and I had the involuntary urge to vomit whatever I ate earlier. My fingers were cold and there was a desperation in my chest I couldn’t let go of.

What I usually do whenever these feelings come is to turn on something by The National, and listen to Matt Berninger sing something melancholic. It’s extremely sobering, and it felt like I was transported to New York, or wherever I believed his ” Fake Empire” was or whatever “Graceless” state we must be living in.

It always seems to bring to mind a few comforting things to remember when you forget that you are happy:

1) That happiness is a recent invention, and science has proved again and again that a) As long as you have the following: Food, Clothing and shelter, you are actually, in fact, undeniably happy, and that b) all happiness is relative.

2) It would be more fruitful to not be obsessed with being happy, because everything will pass and that our existence isn’t about being “happy” despite the conventional wisdom put on memes and pictures on Facebook.

And then I breathe… and I try to breathe in slow, and I think I feel the panic go away.


A (poorly documented) 2013


I got a stunning reminder the other day of what my life was before turning… a certain age, or rather, before entering a new phase in my life. Back then, I chased inspiration, chased it like the sun, chased it with a club!

Now, my life in 2013, I’ve poured all my energies into earning a living that I’ve missed out on making some good art. I miss that so much, you have no idea. Even if it isn’t “art”, I missed sharing my thoughts and ideas with the world, it keeps me inspired, it keeps me searching. My thoughts this year in this blog has been splotchy and all over the place. There’s no narrative to speak of and I’ve abandoned almost all of my goals this year. But now, late into the year and almost into a new one, I’m going to try to start again, if it’s okay with you my dear readers. Thank you for being so patient with me and still bothering to check up on me once in awhile.

I take a lot of what Socrates talks about in the unexamined life… that it is not worth living, but I also realized how dramatic that statement is. I don’t think examination and introspection is everything, but my “contemplation” muscles have been weakened by pragmatism and all this “work work work work” / “go go go go”. I’m so tired, in fact I’m tired all the time.

So I’m going to make some new goals for this season of my life, number 1) write even when you don’t want to 2) write something, a little something everyday 3) finish what you start out writing, doesn’t mean you have to post anything, just finish writing something.

Hopefully, that will train my brain again.

What I got in the mail

image via link

I received a Birthday card in the mail the other day from one of my best friends in the world.

She’s currently living in Brisbane, and what touched me was how every year, without fail, she would send me a card during either Christmas or my birthdays. I know I am a blessed person, because I have more than one of these kinds of people in my life that do this.

What was different this time around was what she wrote in the card. It was so timely to the kind of questions that were running around in my head, that one really couldn’t help but believe in a higher power.

On the front of the card was a painted picture of a woman, and underneath it was titled, “Seeker (of all things brave)”

She wrote, ” …  I saw this card and thought of you because you’re a Seeker. You constantly question the world around you and the way things work. You’re curious and you enjoy learning, which is why it’s always awesome to be around you, because you give me a new perspective on things & life. And you’re also incredibly brave and adventurous.”

Who was this person she was talking about? I hardly recognize her. I didn’t feel brave nor adventurous. Was I ever this person? It felt like I had lost something, and was just only remembering what that was.

I was staring at a very different version of myself. I was staring at myself through someone else’s eyes, someone who loves me, and what that felt like, was something I couldn’t ever put a price on.  It was also then when it hit me. All these questions that I had been grappling with this year, why I wasn’t able to write anymore, why I was feeling frustrated everyday, why I was bored and restless? Why I felt stuck? found an answer.

It was because I’ve settled for the person that was less than what I used to be. I had become like that little metaphorical sailboat that was just sitting “there”, waiting for the wind to change and for the tides to carry me to somewhere good. What happened to that girl I knew so many years ago who had adventures? The one who did many, many things, things she was proud of? The person I actually liked?

I entered writing competitions and didn’t win. Started a band. Made new friends, spoke to different people, some of whom remained best of friends. Chased after boys that didn’t return my love. Ran for Vice-President in college, and won it based on popular vote. I was involved in the editorial board, published our semester books, raised money for the CWF, and Soup Kitchen. Made good art, made movies, wrote stories, read widely. I travelled, went to 8 cities in one year. Got heartbroken, fell in love, made new memories, had many “firsts”. I had exhilarating experiences, and I just felt, alive.

My friend had reminded me about the person I seem to have forgotten to be, and that kinda got to me.

I tried thinking of why this happened, and I think it all started when awhile ago, someone else I loved told me that it seemed like I was always chasing after “something”, and that it seemed like I was never content with just “being”. I thought it was true. And because this person was important to me, what she said mattered and I realized I subconsciously stopped chasing. I tried just “being”  and to just “be happy”, and this lead me to a trap where I just stopped “reaching”.

This of course, would lead to another life lesson, which is what I like to call, “what works for one person, would not necessarily work for another”. This mode of living, although important for a season, didn’t work for me. Little did I know, she would also be one in the many of those that would break my heart in the future, but that’s for another story.

I used to blame “time” as being the factor in all of this. The lack of it, seemed to be all I ever say as to why I wasn’t pursuing my dreams, but if I were truly honest, that wasn’t it. If I were being really honest, I felt like I was in a pond, that suddenly got pushed out to sea. I traversed all the edges of that pond, discovering, leaping, then now in this great vast ocean, I was suddenly paralyzed with fear, and was just content to being comfortable in my own little boat.

But you know what?

I was happiest when I was chasing. Never mind if I never got what I’m looking for, be it, being published on the New York Times Best Sellers list, or my dream book cafe, the thrill of the chase is what kept me alive. I was happiest being full of fear, but just doing it anyway. Never mind the countless fights I had with people over what I thought was important, never mind the failures, never mind the heartache. It was then that I really knew I was alive.

So if you’re reading this, thank you for sending me the card, you know it was the thing that reminded me to continue living and chasing down life with a club and a baseball bat.

TOP TEN: List of Dominant Thoughts in life Thus far


image via pinterest

1. I hate writing online. Writing online has killed nearly everything good about writing. All these competing ideas, and articles to get more likes and clicks, tends to move what’s really good about words and thoughts away from popular culture. Write for clarity, they say, don’t write things that are too long, don’t introduce new characters without some sort of explanation, make things easier for the reader, you’re competing for attention remember?! Put in lists! top tens! write about relationships! people love relationships. Write with humor and expletives, people love that!  I say, if J.R.R. Tolkien ever applied any of these “rules” Lord of the Rings would never exist.

2. Doing life has been tough so far. Maybe it’s because people like me are just entering the cusp of life, filled with endless self-doubt. ” Am I in the right job?” ” Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?” ” This job’s okay… but…” There’s always this “but”, this big question mark at the back of our minds that unsettles you every time you think “I’m good.” ” I’m happy” or ” I’m okay”. You graduated with a good degree, good education, and you think you’re ready for work but when you enter the workforce, what you’re doing has nothing to do with the skills you learned in your study. There are people that say ” Oh you’re just a baby!” nearly every.single.day, and you are. Nothing seems to really fit, being educated in a largely Western tradition, prepares you for nearly nothing about being part of a Malaysian workforce.

3. The Generation Y syndrome? There’s been so much talk about it these days, and the funny thing is these articles about GEN Y are being circulated by GEN-Y-ers themselves. Is it in agreement to many of these claims? That we are coddled and self-absorbed? I agree. But there are some things that GEN Y’s in Malaysia can’t really help. The part where parents pay for their education and rent. It’s more of economics and how far the ringgit goes, if young Malaysians are able to afford paying for their own education, and paying for their houses and cars, they would. I’ve tried suggesting that I wanted to live on my own, and I nearly got disowned. Which might have been nice.

My point is, if the point of these articles are to highlight the problems, then they did a good job. But so far, no one has been able to highlight a good solution, and that’s whats missing. Want an easy solution? Get Generation Y to do things to help other people. The fastest way to step out of their self-absorption and actually look outwardly.

4. Looking back when I was ten, I’m not the person I hoped I would be when I turn twenty. I thought I’d have it together by now. I was greater at being 16 than I am at being 23. I might have been a great 16 year old, I had way more successes and adventures in my years. I had a reach-for-the-stars attitude in life. Now, I find myself constantly “settling” and just really tired all the time.

5. I wanted to be a writer, but you can only really call yourself a writer when you actually, write something, and I’m at the point in my life where I don’t think “blogging” counts as “writing”. What have I written so far? Some commentary pieces, some online pieces for some magazines people don’t read, and some pieces for a magazine I’m not working at anymore.

6. In many ways thirties are the new twenties, and forties are the new thirties and so on. I’m at the age where I don’t really care about my age, so I’m just going to make a blanket statement- I can’t wait till I’m thirty or forty. One, it’s a universal truth that men in their thirties are far better than men in their twenties, and two, I’m waiting for the point in my life where I just don’t care what people think. So people thirty and over, please tell me that my assumptions about being older are true, mostly that you stop caring about what people think, and that men get better than what’s currently happening.

ALSO THIRD, I am poor, I don’t spend money on anything I like, unless you count the purchases I made last night, which don’t count because I didn’t buy anything for myself for six months. The only other time was during the Chinese New Year sale, and now it’s the Ramadhan sale. Can’t wait till more experience equates to more money.

7. What do you think about Marriage and Kids? 

I think nothing of it. Except marriage seems like a way out from living with the parents ( an issue of economics), saying this, it seems exhaustive that the only way I can finally live on my own, is if i lived with someone else, bound by law, and that idea seems pretty exhaustive to me. And kids, refer to point 6, I have barely enough money to keep myself alive let alone another human being.

8. You know what’s really annoying about indie/musical people? 

The constant policing of what’s “good” and what’s “not”. What?! I thought you guys “loved” music, I didn’t know you hated so much more than you claimed to “love”.

9. Speaking of music… Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts is the kind of band you warm up to because you imagine, they could very possibly be you. A little unfit, muffin tops, slightly geeky, nerdy, and in clothes that look like they just got out of their houses; and when Austin Brown bends over to the manipulate feedback effects, you catch a glimpse of his butt-crack. Comparing them to other post-punk alternatives, they stand out as being slightly more lyrically-driven. Most music lovers don’t pay much attention to lyrics and words in a song, but this band just happens to make you take notice.

10.  One of the funnier thoughts that came from my friend Nat was when he said, 

” A Bro doesn’t hold another bro’s hand…”,

It was in response to when Daryl and I got together. We were ‘bros’ before this, we were really ‘GOOD FRIENDS’, and  I liked it that way. So I really don’t relate to all this talk in sub-culture about “friendzoning”, because, everyone’s my friend. I like friends, I love friendships, in many ways I treasure friendships much more than any type of ship.  SO being a friend isn’t secondplace to relationships.

who loves who “more”?

image via link

Here are some thoughts to think about:

Somebody once said this to me at the end of a phone conversation, ” I love you as much as you love me.”

This sounds like something funny to say, definitely if you are outsiders to this relationship; but to explain a little bit of the context here, the two of us had been together for awhile and we were at this point of comfort in the relationship where we can deviate from the classic ” I love you” and ” I love you too” responses. Sometimes we found ourselves overusing those words, so a little creativity doesn’t hurt. So he said it, and without any control ( it was after 12, my brain stops working after 10) I prematurely exclaimed, ” Nooooo!!!”. He laughed hard, while calling me out on this “revelation” that I probably didn’t love him as much as he loved me.Well, what this situation later revealed, was a whole lot more about the subject.

The first question that came to my head was, ” Was it true? Did I really not love him as much?” We both didn’t think it was the case, rather this situation revealed just what I thought about my state of love towards him.  This revealed that, I believed I personally had a greater capacity for love, and that I wasn’t using up my “love” resources enough. So why was I only using it halfway?

This then introduced a whole other string of thoughts. Namely, first, that I was measuring love in terms of “feelings”, which can’t be measured. How can I ever experience what other people feel inside, to compare with my own? I can’t. One person’s “5” on a scale of one to ten, might be another person’s “ten”. For all I know, Janine’s “love” scale is set at “10”, but is a smaller scale compared to Jack’s whose is set at “5”, but it is a more powerful scale, making the number 5 overpower the number 10, even though the number is a 10. See, in this situation, we set our own scales, without any knowledge of a baseline average. Hence, my perception of how much I believed I loved him, based on a scale that is set to my standards of love, that might not be what other people’s standards are.


Second, if love is NOT a “feeling”, then maybe it is an “action”.  This also has complications. What if someone really, really, really professes his love to someone else, but yet, does nothing about this love? He doesn’t tell her, he doesn’t offer her kind words, or a shoulder to cry on, doesn’t buy her lunches etc., let’s pretend he’s afraid, or whatever his reason for not doing anything is; compared to a person who says he likes someone, not love, like, yet he opens her doors, sends her flowers, buys her chocolate, does a whole lot more*, who loves the other more? One identifies with loving the other, the other identifies with just “liking”. So is love defined as an “action”?

Third, if love is sacrifice, and sacrifice is in itself is subjective; for example I think it is a big sacrifice to always be the one driving, braving the traffic jam and getting past two tolls, but Daryl doesn’t view it as a “sacrifice”; to him, this is just part of things, or what life is like in KL. It is “the norm” of his everyday life. Yet Daryl might find it a big sacrifice to cook a meal, wash cabbages, cut carrots, heat pan, pour oil, fry.. .etc, but I, in turn, don’t find that a sacrifice. So who does “more”? Who does the “greater” sacrifice? We can take this up to many other situations in relationships. Cooking is a “lot of work”, but would I rather cook or drive? I would rather cook. It’s more enjoyable to me.

It’s been said that forming the crux of most arguments, we tend to judge others by their actions and we judge ourselves by our intentions. So there are two things at work here, one of them is our perceptions, of our own love, of how other people love each other, of how my partner loves me, and the other is our actions and behaviors to what goes on inside that doesn’t necessarily correlate.


* these are just examples of course. There are other factors at work of course, socioeconomic factors, opportunities, etc. as to why people do not “act” on situations, but all this is besides the point of this piece.

Martin, who had no food

Image via link

For dinner, his first meal of the day, Martin took a little bite out of his rice, had some carrots and vegetables, and took half a bowl of radish soup. He had one bite of pork chop, and another two slices of potatoes. The rice was hard and dry, and the company, nonexistent; hardly a meal, one would say, but he was leaving the rest for his family, and had planned to join them again when everyone was at the table. Currently, one member of his family was asleep on the rattan chair. The other two was nowhere to be found, and mother was stuck at a prior engagement. In the morning he had bread before rushing off to work. After work, he then rushed off to his second job. There was no time for lunch.

Dinner time crept around, but still, he was unable to eat yet, he wanted everyone to be at the table. So because he was so busy that day, he ran upstairs to sort through his bills, and look at his dwindling bank credit balance. He had no money, he uses RM 500 for savings, or he likes to think, a flat tire, a future, a medical bill, or something unexpected. He uses RM 400 to pay for his younger brother’s fees and pocket money, another RM 500 for food and other expenses, like fuel and soap, and only the most basest of necessities.

2 hours had passed before he realized the time. It was now 8.30. He went downstairs to see if everyone was ready to eat yet. To his horror, his family had finished all the food because they thought he had already eaten. Mother exclaimed, ” I THOUGHT YOU HAD ALREADY EATEN!” his heart sank. ” I was even forcing myself to finish ALL THE FOOD.”- this was the great punch in the gut. They looked at him woeful, apologetic, but it was no use. He raced to the soup pot, and poured out what remained. He went back to the table, only the hard stems left. He almost cried; but men don’t cry. Mother offered to fry an egg, but Martin refused, his pride being far bigger than most of his qualities.

He spent the remainder of dinner gnawing on hard vegetable stems that only produced a lumpy mush of fiber in his mouth. He ate it emotionless, joyless, only to fill the gaping emptiness in his belly. His belly was full- only of soup and radish. He was miserable. The promise of food, the longing for food, the longing of warmth to nourish his spirits, and a broken promise.

Then Martin remembered. He remembered the millions of hungry and starving, and the broken promises of food every day. He remembered the families who have no families, the ones who have no dinner table, the ones who have no house, the ones who have no bills, the ones who have nothing. Then he remembered his call, and he vowed never to victimize himself again.

Dearest Nephew

image via Yuliya Cherkez

image via Yuliya Cherkez


To my Dearest Little Nephew in my sister’s belly,

Just a few months ago, I had actually titled this letter ” To my dearest niece or nephew in my sister’s belly”, I then went on at length about how I hoped you were a girl and wrote about all the reasons why. I thought it would be better to write you a new one since we know for sure that you are a boy now. I will let you read this when you’re old enough to read, just so you can see where our heart was, and my thoughts for you before you came into the world.

I hope you don’t feel sad that I had wanted you to be a girl, this has nothing to do with who you are now, and your gender has absolutely nothing to do with your worth. This is something that I hope you will grow up learning, something that the world is still learning, and something that too many get wrong. I suppose I wanted you to be someone that’s kind of like me, but I realized now that you don’t have to be of the same gender for that to happen. If it makes you feel any better, your uncle prayed that you would be a boy, and he has more intuition than either your mom or I had about this.

Since then, I have also changed my thoughts a little- I think I want you to be exactly who you are.  I am convinced that you will be the best of your parents, the best of me, yet nothing like any of us at all, which is by far one of the better things to be. Although, I did read something once that said, ” nieces and nephews get their coolness from their aunts”, and you will remember that this is true.

For a long time now we had thought long and hard about your name, your mother liked Nathan so that we can call you “Nate”, which sounds very fine and handsome, but your parents live in a place that’s very near a restaurant/mamak called Nathan’s corner, so that might not be the best idea. I personally like the name Elijah, so that we can call you Baby Eli, which is very endearing, but I think I will save that name in case I ever have a son.

Image via Efrain Mendoza

Image via Efrain Mendoza

At first, I thought the world should not have any more children, because I don’t think this world is such a great place to live in. Or at least, I didn’t see much hope in a future. There’s a whole load of sadness and pain that comes with being human that no one can ever shield us from, not even your parents.There will be bullies, people that make us feel awful for being ourselves no matter how old we get, there will be a never ending pressure to fit in, there’s a struggle later on in life to earn money, that will test your values and all these “fine lines” between survival and greed. Many people fail this test, but I have no such thoughts about you. You are favored to win ever since the beginning.

There is also this other thing you might come to realize with growing up, that there are evils that happen to innocent people, injustice and unfairness everywhere, but I hope that whoever you turn out to be, you will turn out to be someone that stands up against these things. Of course my ideas about having children also comes from the belief that having children is the scariest thing in the world (because of the pain, and how the worst case scenario is death), so you must know that your mother, and all mothers, are some of the bravest people in the world.

I need to tell you a few things, like how in the future, I will get you a puppy, to your grandpa’s dismay. Because I believe every little boy or girl should have a puppy at least once in his life, you will learn what it’s like to take care of someone that needs you, and to be wholly responsible for another living thing’s existence, a little  bit like what your parents are going through right now, and I think in that way you will have a little more in common with them, so that at times when you might get into fights with your parents, it might help you understand a little better. You also need to know that, sometimes I have to take their side on things, because there really are “rights” and “wrongs” in this world, but you must remember I’m always on your side. Always.

There’s also this other issue of “girls”. You might be too young for this, but sometime later in your life, if you ever need help or advice, I’ll be here to explain things that maybe you’re too shy to ask your mom or dad about. Things like “hormones” , or what to do with your feelings, but you don’t have to worry about this right now.

I want to introduce you to so many things, swimming, badminton, football, basketball, Taekwando but also art, and music and science. Taekwando or martial arts because defending yourself is something that you might need in the future. Sports because it will teach you how to work hard, how to be a team player, how to find your match in others and how to lose with grace. It also teaches you humility in winning, and what achievements feel like. It will cause you to get dirty and sweat, how to play, scream and shout, and these things are important.

I hope you will also come to love the arts, because it’s one of those things that give life it’s meaning. I really hope you will pick up an instrument. Learning to play music and how to listen to it, is one of the most fulfilling parts of  life that will also teach you hard work, patience, determination, and an appreciation for beauty that keeps you sensitive, and your heart strong.  There is a certain joy that comes only from creating and being inspired. People are saying this is something you have within you ever since you were three years old, and I hope no matter how many birthdays you have, that you will keep on staying three inside.

In the future, I don’t know what you will grow up to be- a doctor, policeman, an astronaut or a nurse, but I hope that whatever your occupation is, it will never be as important as the kind of character you have. I hope you will open doors for ladies- your mother, grandmother, aunt, friends, and carry their bags and heavy items; not because they can’t do it. They can, but it just shows your character. Because you are a man that loves people and you choose to honor them that way. You are a man that will do things for the weakest members in society, those that can do nothing in return for you. You’ll do it, just because it’s the right thing to do. I also hope you fill your head with good books, but don’t worry, for this you can go to my library. Also, stay away from playing  too much video games. You can play a little, it’s just addiction is a bad thing, ask your uncle.

Your grandparents are the best people in the world, they made your mother, they also made me and your uncle, and you will love them. They are so excited that you’re arriving soon and I foresee that they are going to spoil you silly. Come soon, can’t wait to see you.

P.S. Currently your mother looks like she swallowed a watermelon.


Much love,

your aunt.