A meltdown and a triptych and back by Malaysia Day

Once upon a time, I wrote a fair bit. I read what I wrote onstage: bits of head and heart on paper that fluttered in shivers when held up to a mic. Flyers around town had my name on it even though I wasn’t in a band. And then I was in a band— in a poetry-music duo at least. Previous incarnations of my site had followers, sometimes in the hundreds, who checked for updates every day, lurking and shit. Some even bought me books from my Amazon wishlist. I loved it, and then I turned reclusive— maybe from some pressure I imagined I was under to impress with my progress, I don’t know. I know I became just another a lurker on my own site watching quietly as those numbers disappeared. I’m not sure if I let them down, and I wasn’t sure if I really cared either. I just didn’t feel like sharing all this was yielding anything I was looking for, and maybe it’d be best to go back to how it used to be. I’ll flood whoever is still here with my backlog later, I thought. It wasn’t like I stopped writing.

And then I stopped writing.

I stopped a lot of things, actually. I stopped being a lot of things too. One day, I woke up and realized that just about everything I loved doing a year ago, I had stopped. Some people have had to stop loving me. My life took on this curious quality of being both stagnant from inactivity, and absolutely rattling from noise spiralled up so tight, still waiting to be let out. My head and heart— all the bits of it this time— was fluttering in shivers even without paper or an audience, and the world outside my door was one giant microphone wanting to know where I had been. I spoke in feedback. I was a campus ghost, a social ghost, and a ghost’s shadow. My head was full and my heart empty. I craved the excitement of being actively engaged but felt I had withered into someone too awkward to qualify.

It wasn’t even a matter of grabbing pen and paper and ending the spell in seconds. Ever since I had ‘snapped out of it’ I suppose, I was bouncing off walls too hard to be able to play with anything the way I used to. I had held off so long that there were now too many ideas, too much noise, and rusty distillation systems— pretty fucking debilitating. Man I’ll tell you it’s taking ages to write even what I’m writing now.

I never knew why I wrote except that I needed to. I had to learn the hard way that it was a need to feel this rattling as little as possible. And now that it was here, I had to try something else. The crime to myself was that I stopped a lot of things. The calendar and clock were crying out. I suppose I would just have to start a lot of things to get back to center, and suck at them until I couldn’t anymore.

I started a lot of things.

I sucked of course— maybe even with this post— but I’m doing it around awesome people, patient people with love who keep on keeping on. So I did the same, and although I’m still ironing out my kinks, things are coming along I guess. What is the antonym of a meltdown? I’m not sure. Honestly my backspace key is breaking writing this for you— it’s a struggle but I know it’s going to get done. Above all, you guys, I’m starting to love the doing again.

It’s been a long, lengthy, and atypical introduction in order to get to the triptych of stuff I’ve pulled myself together for, a story of the bends before September 16 came around the bend. But hey I didn’t want to just pimp out all of my Malaysia Day shit. I promised I’d put you through some backlog first after all, hehe. Moving on.


I guess I’ve mentioned this first one already.

I’m not sure what else I could add by way of comments, except that I’m happy I started with Clare. I wanted to think more about universities, my peers. I wanted to think about ‘foreigners’ and my home. I wanted music I didn’t know the language of so that lyrics wouldn’t get stuck in my head. I wanted to read between the lines. And at the last minute, I got everything I wanted.

I wrote a story of a solitary instrument helping a solitary girl find her way into a feeling of ‘home’ again in her days and voice. I pondered our role in her story.

Oh hey okay I know what to add now— I took up the ukulele. Clare and I were both piano-baby generation failures, and seeing how the violin worked for her, I figured it might be time to finally try my hand at an instrument myself. I saw a five year old boy go viral from singing bad and adorable English playing a mean Beatles on the uke, and bam, he became my fucking idol. If a five year old boy could do it, why can’t I? Ukuleles sound like a great idea. They’re light & small, they sound happy, and seemed like they could be good company in traffic jams. I bought an unwanted Dolphin for RM150 the moment I could. The Dolphin comes in 50 colours— it’s a great cheapie junk food uke— but the only colour in town that wanted me was ‘Sunburst’, marked down from a hairline crack on its neck. I was a traffic jam hippie, I was happier already.


I had to talk about my piece and the project around my piece on radio a few times. I was more than happy to keep Grace company after putting her through editorial hell with my story. This first one was live in studio, during rush hour. I like being on radio, but how strange it was to be live in studio after listening to the station so religiously. I had headphones and a mic in my face, but I was secretly imagining myself in the car like any other day— listening to the show, listening to them introduce the guests and ask their questions— then silence, because I had to stop listening and start talking, and that when I talked hundreds of people could hear me, that I was the radio… in short, it felt too surreal for me to feel as nervous as I thought I’d be.

The second was a straight up Malaysia Day special, placing my voice amongst others. I came in right at the end. It’s short on air, but the actual talk was emotionally intense for Grace and me. Alia (my other half in Dizzy & The) is a big fan of the host. She gushes to me about how his voice sounds like Horlicks. There he was asking my editor and I if we felt comfortable in our own home, asking us why we thought our society was myopic. I only hope they were good answers. We were frustrated young fortune tellers, and he himself said he was a grumpy old cynic. It was an amazing thing to be spoken to by a voice like Horlicks, just as it was to be amongst such great company in one podcast.

a change of surroundings 

One last podcast for you, and maybe the one that surprised me most of all. I definitely did not see myself here (again) by Malaysia Day. But an office where everyone can hold their own in an intelligent conversation was the stark contrast I needed from campus. I’m taking a break, sandwiched between semesters for sanity. I still have ideas, and people don’t seem to mind that. So I’m going to get as many out until the new year.

Here’s one of them: 13 mini stories on 13 Malaysian states. All states because that’s how it should be, not just about two of them, every Sep 16, every year, or things will never change. I make my mother cry somewhere in there too.


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