the process of unloving (a return letter)

the process of unloving (a return letter)

I wrote a letter to myself at the end of 2020, setting down some things I hope I’ll have achieved a year from then. The sand in the hourglass has since stopped running and it’s high time I reply to that letter:

No, the virus has not cleared up and nobody knows exactly what the ‘new normal’ entails; half of the world lives like the virus does not exist and the other half is suffocating from it. The latest variant is called ‘Omicron’ and I personally think it sounds more like a family-friendly Transformer than a deadly mutative virus.

To the left of me now, right behind my pack of half-eaten brownies, is a box of Lateral Flow Tests. I can’t tell you how many used test kits are sitting at the bottom of my bin under my table along with the not-good-enough drafts of my writings that were trashed. In chapter one of my microeconomics class this semester, we briefly recapped the concept of ‘scarcity’, and while I wouldn’t exaggerate to say that LFTs are a scarce resource in this country, we definitely seem to be headed in that direction.

Yes, my family and friends are happy and healthy just like Olivia Rodrigo’s song goes; they are also doing great out there without me. Their unwavering support has helped me through the troughs of the year and they were there for the crests as well. I call home every week, even when I’m drowning under an iceberg of assignments. Any minute I can spare in between my day like when I’m walking to class, I try my best to keep updated with my friends. I miss them—that much hasn’t changed, but it’s comforting to know everyone is spanning their wings in their own fated directions. Honestly considering taking up a summer internship in KL since everyone will either be there or overseas when I return, but everything is still up in the air.

I’ve made it to Manchester, quite obviously, the move of which has been the biggest challenge in my life thus far (and I’ve been alive for twenty years, so that’s saying a lot). I’ve come to realize, however, that a clean slate isn’t always a good thing. Not to say that I’ve been trying to reinvent who I am, but I thought it’d be easier to step into a ‘new and improved’ version of myself upon landing on Mancunian ground. As it turned out—and I will go into more detail about this in the next blog post—I miss the old me.

As for making something out of myself, I’m still working on it; the process is arduous and lengthy, but I’m giving it all I have, I promise you. Quite literally, I looked at everything on my plate and when told I had to sacrifice something, I chose my sleep and sanity without a shred of doubt (I am doing okay mentally but we will see how long this holds; all part of the university experience, am I right, folks?).

Speaking of which, university has not been smooth-sailing and I doubt it will ever be—I believe that’s the essence of it. I still place more priority on grades than is necessary, but my grip around it is slipping for the better. We really sat through twelve years of the Malaysian education system and the Asian kiasu mindset telling us that anything below an 85% is just unacceptable. My first graded paper of this semester was a 77.95% which looks foreign to me but I was over the moon when I saw that score. I’m just doing my best now. Who cares about the numerical grading as long as I’m actually learning and growing and making use of that twenty-thousand-pound tuition fee?

I’ve definitely learned to cook without being a fire hazard, though I still have a long way to go before I live up to the family recipes. I won’t consider myself ‘independent’ just yet because independence isn’t an overnight achievement. I’m still learning the ropes of so-called ‘adulting’; it’s exhausting, it’s draining, but it’s life. Sidenote: doing your own groceries and weekly budgeting takes up more energy and time than you’d expect. I can’t believe I have to begin dealing with taxes soon—they don’t teach you that in school.

I didn’t finish writing the book I’d been keeping in the back of my mind (surprise, surprise), but I’ve certainly written some pieces I’m immensely proud of this year (shamelessly plugging in this very blog, Getting It Strait, UoM’s student news portal, Crunch by Nuffnang, and CEKU by UKEC because who else is going to do it for me?), and I’d like to think even if my words haven’t grown stronger and wiser, I’ve come to appreciate them more, regardless of their state, simply because of how they represent me.

Now, love is a topic I know everything and nothing about. It’s a familiar stranger, so to speak. Have I loved this year? You can bet on your ancestors’ graves that I did. What’s different is that I’ve been redefining love over and over again in 2021, which is a discussion for another day. Long response short: I do love the city I’m in (though not its dreadful weather); I picked up Muay Thai, which I absolutely adore but sadly had to stop training because of MCO; I held a part-time job position working for my neighbor back in Penang and I learned so much more than I had expected from them; and of course, to nobody’s surprise, I have found love in other people (now whether those are arms of new or old is for me to know and for you to never find out).

But here’s the kicker, the bang for buck of this piece: This year is the first time I have fallen out of love with myself. For a lack of grace and better words, jealousy and comparison are raging bitches. I never thought it was possible for me to unlove who I am, what I write, how I speak, how I look, but I did. This process of unloving took a long time to rear its ugly head and in the end, I didn’t recognize who the girl in the mirror was anymore. I’ll address this in the next piece as well, but I’m trying to do better now, to be okay with the days where I’m not okay.

I will say that I am happy. Not every day, but most days. The weather still drags my mood down and my soul still disintegrates a little from my weekly workload; but because of this, I’ve been forced into learning something I’ve never been taught before: finding happiness in the in-betweens.

I guess it’s tradition now, so here are some more realistic goals for 2022:

  • Stop spreading yourself so thin and taking too much on your plate.
  • Be more of an active listener than a won’t-shut-up-talker.
  • Get going on the draft of the story in your head, even one chapter will do.
  • Set higher boundaries for yourself.
  • Eat a little healthier, learn non-fry recipes.
  • Fall in love—but not too easily.