I unabashedly love my own birthday. I’m a child! I love attention and being loved and cake and presents! I haven’t really celebrated my birthday in the past two years — 2012: working, fasting, breaking fast at KFC with Elza (lil lady sitting on the far left of the last picture); 2013: riding shotgun in a lorry with my little sisters outside Jakarta — and before that I spent it in Melbourne for four years, sometimes with friends but always far away from my best friends from home. This year, I’ll be working on the day itself, and I still feel a wobbly shame at how upset I am about that, about losing that day, even though I will be working on something important, something that’s been a long time coming, working with wonderful people on that day.
Anyway, I decided to have a birthday dinner on Wednesday night, earlier than planned, so I could celebrate in a symbolic way my turning one year older. I wanted Mexican food and so I picked the one that seemed best and the most convenient based on online reviews (KL has like 12 Mexican places, so it wasn’t very hard to choose) and we went there, none of us having ever been. They didn’t have horchata, but the food and the ambience and the staff were all great. Elia (mini sombrero on the right) got me a balloon throne — “The balloons are in colours from Up! ‘cause you’re an old man.” — the staff brought out the guitar and put a giant birthday sombrero on me. At the end of the night I had Nadia’s earrings and Dhi's lipstick on, my bag two books and a box of chocolates heavier. I ate both the first and last slices of my own birthday cake, and when I took a breath before I blew out my candles, I found I didn't really have much to wish for.
25’s been a good year for me, full of lessons and highs and personal reflection and (hopefully) growth. Friends have made comments recently that have hinted to me that my confidence is showing on my face as well as my actions. And that’s marvellous, really heartening to know. But always, always, I come back to being grateful above all (else I’ll float away on a cloud of inflated self-regard). I’ve spent a solid 14 years with a lot of the people in the photo above, our friendships expanding and solidifying through time. I had three hours with them last night and it felt barely enough. But I have them, grounding me and buoying me both. I have had them, and I will continue to have them, and that’s my best gift, sorry to open the can of creamed sentimentality over here.
I’m really looking forward to 26. I’m so young yet, and so excited! I’m just discovering that some hats might actually look good on me! It’s gonna be a good year!
I now feel like I know so many startling, brilliant, enchanting women, and their particularities satisfy me in a way I think no composite image could.
In these next couple of days, three of my very close friends are leaving to further their studies and for work. Nadia and Sara are leaving to the UK, and Dr Amaleena (I totally have doctor friend, yo.) is leaving for Sabah to work there. As it is, Syar is in Australia for her studies, Jacqueline is in Canada for hers, and Su is often in Miri for work. Soon, Mawar too will be leaving for Australia.
As some of you know, Tigah and I are already in a long distance relationship as he is currently in the States. And suddenly, a lot of whom I hold dear are leaving too- and I feel so incredibly alone.
I know it’s selfish to dwell on my loneliness when, given the opportunity they had, I too would (and will) leave this place. But I can’t help but feel deserted. And I’m holding on to Skype like my life depends on it.
Because it practically does. I don’t know how I would have survived these past 3 years being apart from Ian without Skype, and I don’t know how I can handle missing my girlfriends soon.
But as we sat around the mamak table, laughing our heads off over the silliest things, I recall what we were like in high school. The things we felt were important now seem so trivial and childish. The little fights we’d have, the gossips we shared. The drama that were shared (mostly by me).
And I look at these girls now and think, wow. What wonderful women they’ve all turned out to be. They have always been the most intelligent girls I know, but now they’re also much stronger, more confident, and ready to take on the world. They’re my inspiration, my motivation. They’ve all seen how a crybaby like me grew up, and it wouldn’t have been possible without them.
So I’m struggling a bit, because suddenly my sisters won’t be around to smack me upside the head if/when I do something stupid. But at the same time, I feel, the years they’ve spent with me has prepared me for this moment.
And as I glimpse into my (hopefully not too imaginary) future, I look forward to the next phase of adulthood, when we gather for our weddings, and baby showers and children’s birthdays and hip replacement parties.
Because I believe the distance won’t severe our sisterhood. This is the kind of friendship that lasts a life time.
And I’m glad I have them to share that with me.
I will miss you girls so much. I love you all.
I’ve known El since she was 12 going on 13 and I was 11 going on 12 (I got to skip 4th grade because I
am a genius child prodigy passed a national standardized test that no longer exists). I remember setting up her Hotmail account for her, for some reason. I remember how we used to write NSYNC fanfiction. I remember her choreographing dance moves to Aaliyah’s Try Again (and also Mandy Moore’s Candy, and I think Janet Jackson’s Doesn’t Really Matter) for our PE class. I remember the day we got our results for SPM (another Malaysian standardized test) and how she thought she got 6A’s and I pointed out that she miscounted and she had gotten 7, which, she wasn’t even expecting 6. She used my phone to make both calls to her mom. I still make fun of her for the time she went on a rant in front of our whole Form 1 class, sat down, and kicked her shoe (“accidentally”) until it hit the ceiling.
I’ve been away from home for four years. Half of me thinks all of our lives will converge and overlap again the way it used to when we were in high school. When we were all in the same place, and saw each other every other day. That half is still scared of growing up. She’s learning though, that half. And she’s catching up with the other half, who’s making leaps and jumps she didn’t think she could have, or would have, when she was 11 going on 12. And I can’t tell you the feeling in my heart when I see my lovely lovely best friends doing the same. We continue to grow and love together.
What wonderful women we’ve all turned out to be, indeed.
Today I’ve been thinking about how a friend has this habit of deflecting a question by repeating the question to someone else in the vicinity.
A: “What did you do this weekend, B?”
B: “I don’t know, what did I do this weekend, C?”
The relationship of A to B is almost always far less intimate than the relationship of B to C. This disparity is what allows B to firstly: refrain from directly answering A’s question and secondly: safely deflect the question to someone more or less likely to participate in this weird game of catch.
It’s an odd affectation, and I’ve tossed around a couple of theories as to why B has this habit. Mostly it has to do with B’s reluctance to answer the question, which increases accordingly depending on the subject matter of the question. It allows B to avoid talking about things like B’s university coursework, B’s responsibilities for a number of different projects, B’s feelings about family, B’s financial situation and other awkward odds and ends that sometimes turn up in civil conversation. It allows B to do all this avoiding but with a smile and a laugh, because if it comes out of someone else’s mouth it’s nothing at all; it’s a questionable truth.
"How much money have I been spending this month, C?"
"How much work have I been doing today, C?"
The answer is always either “More than you should have” or “Less than you should have”. Both answers are never what B wants to admit to anyone. This leads me to conclude that B is embarrassed about the decisions B makes and fears the judgment of others, which is unfortunate but is the universal condition. I wish I had a graph of all this, and I hope B never ever finds it or what’s been written.