The process of recalling the past can be a challenge. I did have to think somewhat long and hard tracing back where I was, what I did. Time does fly and somehow my past experiences have made me the person I am today.
20 years ago, 1985
The year I sat for that all important exam. I was a pure nerd. Spent most of time doing mock exam questions and watching the 3 pm Mandarin TV drama serials. Somehow managed to pick up Mandarin from just watching those TV series.
Stayed at home pretty much most of the time. I wasn’t allowed out to play with the kids in the neighbourhood (perhaps that’s why I have very limited social skills.) My life was generally school, home, school, home with tuition sandwiched in between. I remember looking out at the window a lot, watching the kids playing at the play ground.
Did well enough for my exam to be accepted to the best girls’ school. Went downhill from then on ;)
10 years ago, 1995
I was in Canada, in my second year of University. I had fought very hard for the opportunity to go to University. I had to seek up a bank loan to pay for my fees, spent one year literally in tears because my parents didn’t want me to study abroad. (One of the reason they said was that we couldn’t afford it. But I refused to accept that as an excuse.) Doing research without the internet then required a lot of leg work then. Remembered going to all sorts of study fairs and even opening a book which listed the different Universities in Canada. Wrote to all of them, asking them for prospectus etc. Finally shortlisted five Universities where I thought I could afford the fees.
But finally here I was all alone in Calgary, realizing that its hard work being in University. For someone who didn’t know anybody or anything about the place I moved to, everything was a new experience and I was on a mean learning curve. Being a self sponsored student meant that funds could be short at times. Had to take up part time work on top of the student workload.
Nothing I knew before prepared me for the cold winters in Canada. I knew it was going to be cold but –20oC cold? Learnt how to cook for myself as well, and doing the laundry etc. I wasn’t spoilt at home but Nenek did the cooking all the time and suddenly I realized that I had only myself to depend on, either for success or for my failure. No more excuses, no more denial.
Did manage a trip or two to the Canadian Rockies courtesy of my more street savvy friends.
Lived in a 3 bedroom apartment with 2 other students. Between managing household bills, late rents, assignments and housemate problems, I guess I learned to be independent quite quickly.
Got my driving license. Big deal for me because I came from a family of non drivers.
Also had my first heartbreak. Didn’t get out of bed what it feels like a week. Had to seek professional counselling because I was simply falling to pieces. I wasn’t going to class, I just wasn’t doing anything. But I would not let a bastard of a guy breaking my heart make me lose my track.
5 years ago, 2000
At the beginning of the year, we were living in Singapore. Had to fly home in a hurry from Hong Kong the year before, due to my mum’s passing. Stayed in Singapore for a while to try and settle some things for my siblings. Somehow the experience of sorting out a dead parent made you grow up quite quickly, whether you are ready or not. I just realised that I had to shoulder some of the responsibilities when I realized that my dad could not handle it. He was too busy grieving himself. Her passing was a shock and was unexpected but I just had to shoulder on.
What do you do with her old clothes? Keep them in the cupboard untouched? I gave them away, much to the chagrin of my dad and my nenek. Its not that I didn’t honour her memory but I felt that it would serve a better purpose when someone else could make use of them. Its not that I wanted to erase her memory from the house, just that we needed to declutter and move on. Surely its not her worldly possessions that she left behind that would remind us of her, but the memory of her should already be in our minds anyways.
Perhaps having been away helped because I could distance the possessions from the memories.
I remember getting restless, had the opportunity to visit India. Saw real poverty for the first time in my life; people sleeping, eating and cooking on the streets. Saw a street urchin washing her clothes from the liquid flowing from an aircon vent. Learnt to appreciate the value of running water, modern plumbing and my life in general.
Later that year, we moved to Jakarta. A drastic lifestyle change for me, suddenly we had a driver and a maid. I didn’t know how to deal with that sort of luxury. As much as I was beginning to enjoy it, I realised how temporary and surreal it was.
Life in Jakarta was generally good. But I had the burning desire to move on.
3 years ago, 2002
With the big 30 looming, suddenly there was a compulsion to look at “What I want to achieve by the time I was 30” list. Had always imagined myself living in an old English cottage with fruit trees at the back and a Continental car in the driveway. Wanted to live and travel in Europe.
After being hospitalised for an unknown disease, realized that life is too short to dwell on the small stuff. Got the opportunity to move to the UK. Hated it at first but learned to adjust to the lifestyle there.
Wanted to fulfil that dream of being a home owner meant that we had to pinch pennies. Also had to weigh my priorities in life. Had to choose between pursuing a Masters Degree or becoming a home owner. (Money don’t grow on trees for us!) I opted for the latter because I simply hated to pay rent. I thought if we waited for a little bit perhaps I could avoid paying the foreign student fees. But somehow things didn’t work out that way. We had to move on before I could realize that dream.
In life we win some, we lose some.
But funnily enough, when you have certain dreams or visions in your life, I realised that sometimes when those dreams or visions are fulfilled, its not quite the way you had imagined it to be. It was hard work achieving for our goal and it was much harder work to maintain it.
The apple tree I so wanted in my backyard became a little bit of a nuisance. Don’t quite like green apples so much and didn’t quite get round to making apple pies and apple jams. Most of the apples were rotten anyways by the time they fell from the tree. And we were too short to pick the apples off the 100 year old tree.
The strawberries we grew, after all the hard work, only managed to sample 2 strawberries. The rest of which was eaten either by the slugs or the squirrels.
Having a lawn meant that we had to mow it regularly and protect it against weed etc. Spent many afternoons working on my garden, on my roses, my lavender and my herbs. Gardening can be hard work!
Saving up for the house also meant that we could not really afford to go for holidays, or eat out or shop frivolously. Every penny had to be accounted for.
But that’s life isn’t it?
Last year, 2004
Another year, another move. In my preparation for my move to the Middle East, I thought I should take the opportunity to travel a bit more.
Went backpacking round Europe with a friend round Germany and Italy. Had wanted to go backpacking all though my 20s but either didn’t have the opportunity or the cash.
Came back and did my TEFL certification. Something that I said I had been wanting to do, but thought that it was money that could be used elsewhere in the house.
Still no sign of my visa and so decided on an impulse to backpack in Japan. Had a wonderful time. Realized that I could live with myself if I had to. I can survive being alone and I can make friends along the way if I want to. Perhaps this makes no sense to some of you but after living with someone for awhile, you tend to depend a lot on each other, sometimes even fusing into one. (I know some people are going *uwek* *uwek*) I learnt on this trip that I can be resourceful and receptive. I am happy in my own skin and my own company.
Finally the visa came through and it was time for me to move on. Had a terrible culture shock upon moving to S@udi Ar@bia, especially an independent woman who is accustomed to having her own freedom.
Also went through a little bit of spiritual awakening. Not really due to the locals, but more due to geography. Performed my first umrah, with great trepidation of course. But I thought it would be ironic that I visited the Vatican earlier in the year and didn’t take up the opportunity to visit Makkah as soon as I could.
Lived through various terrorist threats, racism and the world as I know it, against the world which the locals here view it. Funnily enough encountered more racism here in the land of the Muslims compared to when I was in Europe or Japan. Learnt the huge discrepancy between culture and religion especially when it comes to this region. Used to think that the holy land is filled with holy and pious people, only to find that contrary to that, its no different from the rest of the world.
Had to re-examine my own values, my own direction in life and my new dreams. Had to reassess what it means by being a Muslim. Perhaps you can call it a soul overhaul.
Next year, 2006
My life has been filled with many surprises, many of which was unplanned, so who knows what will happen next year. Will I still be here? Will we move on? If so where? Living in one place too long somehow makes us restless, so I won’t rule out a new project or a new plan or a new dream.
I hope that we will eventually get to pay off one of our mortgages. Its been taking us ages to finish paying off this one, and somehow when we come to a point when it almost becomes a reality, something happens and somehow we didn’t quite achieve this goal.
We had always planned that as soon as we finish off paying for that mortgage, we will take a round the world trip. We’ve been meaning to do this 3 years now but I have been putting it off since I felt that it’s a priority to pay off the mortgage rather than travelling round the world. Plus I want to be travelling with some of the load off my shoulders. In the meantime, its another dream we have yet to fulfil.
I realize that life is about going through some tests. Hopefully the tests make us stronger and wiser. Although we do have some things easier compared to other people, there are some things which have been harder for us. For instance the uncertainty of being a contractual employee and moving from country to country, depending on where the contract is.
10 years from now
Where do I see myself 10 years from now? Who knows. Perhaps we’ll be back in Malaysia by then, unless we decided to settle down elsewhere. More importantly I hope that I will still be happily married with my beloved.
I hope we’ll be in a more secured financial position. By this time I hope to have paid off all our financial liabilities. Aspire to be debt free by this time.
At no matter what age I am I hope to live each day with no regrets. I want to be happy with myself, grateful of my achievements and lead a contented life with my loved ones.
The baton came from Leen and to whom should I pass this one? There are some bloggers whose blog I have been reading and I am very interested in reading how they see themselves, their past and their future. I hope to pass the baton on to MakAndeh, CikKieli, Atiza, Elisa , NurElsa, Ailin, KakHalela, PokKu and AnaSalwa. Actually errr I want to add more but I don't know if they'd have the time to accept the baton. But if you are please please please feel free to accept the challenge.