Hope and the outcome: Post GE14 reaction

Image source: The Coverage

I am just an ordinary Malaysian, but I am certainly proud to be one at this particular point in history.

Just days ago, our entire nation went to the polls to determine who will govern our country for the next 5 years. It had been such a highly anticipated event that it feels so surreal that it is now all over.

I am not one to write about anything even remotely related to politics, but this election season was truly an emotional and exciting one. So I am not going to pass up a chance to pen down something about it, although this is more of a personal tale and nothing more.

To be honest, having grown up in Malaysia, I had kind of reached a point of disillusionment and cynicism about the ways things are in my homeland. In recent years, things have really gotten from bad to worse on so many fronts. To me, it felt like it had reached a point where it would only just continue to go downhill from here onwards.

Over the years, I saw so many people I know migrating overseas or at least attempting to do so. Not many are proud of the country nor do they see any sort of great future to be savoured by staying here. Government policies and incentives seem to favour luring Malaysians who were overseas back home to contribute to the economy. Nobody seemed to think of rewarding those who continued to stay here. To someone like me who had never left, it felt like we were being unappreciated.

Racial and religion based politics were everywhere. Although my own friends and family were never judgmental or prejudiced in their dealings with me, there was an overarching feeling of disunity that seemed to always linger in the background. Back when I was a child, it felt a whole lot more harmonious living in a multi-racial society, and it was something that we were brought up to be proud of, for the reason that it set us apart from other nations and made us diverse and adaptable as a world citizen. But the older I got as an adult, it seemed like the very foundations we had been taught as children was being undone.

Scandal after scandal was reported in the news, and it felt like the instances of corruption would never end. This not just being within government related transactions, but across all economic sectors too. So many stories, too many unhappy endings.

There was very little faith in the public education system , and most families who could afford it would rather send their children off to study in private institutions, particularly for higher education. I am among those who graduated from a private foreign university. It was insanely expensive, but my parents believed it would be better for me to study there than at a local university.

Public safety has been a growing concern, and the general perception these days is that our streets are not safe at all. You’re not safe in your car. You’re not safe outside of your car. Even when it was a reasonable distance that you could get to by walking, I’d discourage my loved ones from doing so because so much can happen while you are out on foot. We witness robberies and burglaries in the middle of the night. A neighbour of ours was once held at knife point just outside her house while I was at home next door, unaware. I recall a conversation I had with a complete stranger on a flight back to Malaysia. He was a foreigner and was surprised to hear that in Malaysia, it’s not safe to leave your bags on the front passenger seat of the car while you are driving (robbers would smash your window to grab your belongings when your vehicle is stationary at a traffic light).

Back in the days when I was a reporter, I also had to write several news features on very grim issues such as deaths in police custody, reform of the electoral process and urban poverty. It would have likely driven me to depression if it had continued long term (the publication I worked for at that time eventually closed down).

I recall a conversation I had with a senior colleague once, on the issue of gifts and bribery. Although I was never really in the line of fire (I never did newsdesk duty except on tech stories, which were mostly not as controversial or high profile as other kinds of breaking news), I was made to understand that it was such a commonplace practice and done very openly. Money would be slipped in as part of the press kit. People would often ask to vet through drafts of a story before it got published (for which I personally had several bad experiences with regards to). Impartiality was almost virtually impossible, especially in the mainstream media.

On matters closer to home, our household income is barely enough to get by every month, especially since we had a child and I quit full time employment. We are a middle income family, but yet we are not even able to have surplus to set aside for savings. The outlook for future household expenditure did not look like it would get any better in the future.

Being a Christian also, things also felt rather bleak because Christians were often the target of divisive arguments and political agenda. We are taught as believers to expect persecution in the world because of our faith, but there are days that it felt really unfair and sad to see other fellow Christians targeted for no good reason.

These are just some of the issues I had faced as a Malaysian in recent times. And the sentiments they brought about stayed with me as I braced myself to cast my vote in our country’s 14th General Elections.

In fact, just thinking of polling day itself brought anxieties of its own. So much precautionary information was being circulated online. It was helpful, of course, but it was worrying nonetheless. We were told time and again that certain parties would be up to dirty tricks, hence we had to be careful about the way events unfolded as we cast our votes.

Make sure certain polling clerks don’t have writing instruments and voice it out if they do and are seen writing things down. Pay attention to your ballot papers. Do they have smudges, marks that shouldn’t be there? Is there a stamp at the corner of the paper? Ensure that the candidate names and parties are correct. Do everything you can so yours will not become a spoiled vote. There are cheaters out there.

As my husband aptly pointed out on that day, these are not things we should have to worry about as voters. But in Malaysia, it is of concern.

So I went to vote on 9th May feeling extremely sombre and devoid of all hope. I didn’t really believe what I did would make a difference. I dared not dream of change or anything promising coming out of the elections. To be honest, I felt defeated. Like it didn’t matter what we did, because it would not alter the outcome.

But somehow, between the time that I had dropped my ballot papers into their respective boxes and the moment the final results were announced, I got caught up in the excitement of the moment and the promising turn of events that followed one after another.

It was breathtaking and nothing short of a miracle. It was hilarious and strangely comforting too, seeing the Prime Minister we grew up with back at the helm. And satisfying to have that glimmer of hope again, that chance that justice will finally be served and past wrongs might actually be made right at last.

I am glad I stayed in Malaysia and grateful that I could witness this momentous occasion that will certainly be a highlight in the history books that are to be written about our beloved nation. I am also thankful for all our local warriors, who in one arena or another paved the way for the change we experienced in GE14.

Life hasn’t always been kind to us over here. But there is hope. As I once used to profess, while we live, there is yet hope.

I look forward to a better Malaysia moving forward.

Fleeting

Dinner is due and there’s still things left to be done in the kitchen. But I feel compelled to write, even if just a bit.

Today has been such a mixed bag of emotions. Jamie and I went to visit another potential preschool today. It didn’t go too badly, but the experience made me realise how much growing up is expected of children these days, even while they are still at a tender age.

It is marvellous to be able to witness a child capable of so much at so early on in their life, but is it necessary? Are we in fact curbing their freedom to just be a child and savour the world as-is by demanding that they are able to meet supposedly age appropriate abilities? How does it feel for a child who isn’t able to comply at the time it is expected of them?

The other thought that occurred to me today is how limited my time alone with Jamie every day is becoming. For what seemed like an eternity, it felt like things would remain the way they are now for a long time more to come, but the reality is these days of being at home with me 24/7 will end soon. Surely there will be exciting times ahead thereafter, just that I wonder have I done enough to equip him for this upcoming next phase.

Here is the startling realisation I have come to after having been at home with Jamie for just about three years: It’s not necessarily enough to just be at home with your child. Being available and being physically present are two different things. I regret to say that often times, I am only one of those two things and not both. It is a sad sort of feeling when you become aware of this. I still have no useful enough remedy to overcome this problem.

It’s true what they say that we have such a short time with our kids before they move on in life. I already feel the weight of this reality. I can only hope that my husband and I are preparing Jamie well enough for whatever is ahead of him despite the limitations we have in terms of time, money and other resources.

Because essentially, I guess that’s what parenting is about: Helping them find their feet and equipping them to be able to handle whatever life throws their way. Building resilience. Shaping character. Leaving them with enough strength to go on, even when the time comes that we can no longer accompany them.

Insights and idiocy

Parenting has its fair share of online content these days.

Everyone and their dog has advice to dish out, promising you a better outcome for this or that issue you are facing with your child.

Then there are those who craft these almost poetic, contemplative pieces that seek to motivate you and inspire you and move you to tears as you reflect on your role as a parent or on the specific details of your child’s life as paralleled in their writing.

Not forgetting too those comedically relayed tales, guaranteed to elicit at least a chuckle, if not belly deep outbursts due to how uncannily similar its depiction is to something you experience on a regular basis.

So much has been said, but sometimes it feels like it’s the shiny, polished version. In retrospect, I often think of particular topics I’d wished someone would have addressed in order to have made it a little smoother of a transition for me into the various phases of parenting that I have experienced so far.

Maybe this identification of gaps in parental discussion is a cue for me to add my own thoughts to the World Wide Mix of Parental Confusion. Perhaps it will bring Parental Clarity. Or I could just be disillusioned in thinking I am any wiser than the next Mum.

Isolation

For some reason, I feel lonely today.

Perhaps it’s to do with having to constantly interact with my almost three year old son’s imaginary friends. Or the fact that out of the blue, a few different friends have decided to dub March as Meet Up Month, calling for reunions and catch up sessions.

Nothing wrong with all these things, I suppose. On brighter days, those may actually be considered good things. Funny things. Treasures to cherish.

But today, for some reason, I feel like I want something else. I want space. I want time. I want the liberty to do things I like. Not that it needs to be for long, or that I need a retreat away from everyone. I suppose I just need that metaphoric quiet spot I used own. That cloud from which to sit upon and dangle my feet, where I can watch the world pass by and think my own thoughts. Be comfy in my own sea of emotions.

I am a melancholic. I guess try as I might, I cannot run from that reality. And when there’s too much noise, too much talking, too many things that vie for my attention that I cannot hear myself think, I feel uneasy. I don’t feel like myself.

Funny that I should be admitting this to you, my random reader and friend. But that seems to be what life is coming to. A senseless bunch of events, strung together like beads on a string. And someday, when the space on the string runs out, its time to complete the loop and say goodbye.

(Okay, next I write, I promise cheerier things. TTFN!)

Countdown to Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year!

Being Malaysian Chinese carries along with it so many things that make up who I am. As much of a banana* that I am, so many aspects of the Chinese culture have seeped into my life. For instance, the kind of food we eat, the way we relate to our elders, etc.

Add to that the labels and expectations that are attached to being Malaysian AND Chinese, and then there is a whole added layer to what makes up my personality.

Anyway, the predominant thought over here at this moment is that I am not 100% proud of the heritage that we inherit by being Chinese (although only in part by now, since my ancestors have been on Malaysian soil for a good few generations by now), but this is who I am and I guess there must have been a reason for God to have fashioned this background that I have been born into.

This little video here, in some ways, says a lot. Never mind that it’s not about Malaysian Chinese in particular, it still reflects a lot on how the Chinese culture and mentality affects those of us who are born into this ethnicity. Notably, it speaks a lot about Chinese parenting in general: That emotionally distant, tough kind of love, the emphasis on studying hard, that inclination towards mathematics and numbers and money, that dedication to work, and sense of duty towards providing for the family.

Chinese New Year is mostly a family centred celebration. So all these things come up. All these family traditions, histories, imperfections… It is, to me, happiness tainted with a large dose of reality. The realisation that there will always be some family member that is alienated. Another who is indifferent. Yet another who tries too hard to unite everyone. All these things.

The angpaus. The hierarchy of family positions and titles. That emphasis on money. Those seemingly eternal debts: be they financial, emotional or all sorts of other in-between stuff. The polite small talk to mask the years of stories, sometimes buried out of convenience.

Hope I haven’t dampened the cheeriness of your Chinese New Year. These are just my musings. I love my parents. I like certain aspects of my Chinese heritage.I just hope to break the mould and be that bit different somehow.

Not to be that stingy, uncaring, crude person that the world might expect of me because I am inevitably Chinese. (Let’s leave the Malaysian bit for another post, another story – that too has a long list of things to be said about which is not worth delving into right now).

What’s your CNY reunion like this year? Mine’s alright, but a part of me always feels it could still be way better.

* A local slang which is used to describe a person who is Chinese but yet cannot speak/write in any of the Chinese dialects proficiently.

A year full

We’re off into 2018 already, but it doesn’t entirely feel like a Happy New Year to me.

Well, I suppose it could be worse, but nevertheless, I feel somewhat reticent about another beginning.

I sometimes wonder why we measure time this way, breaking it up into days, months, years, etc. Why not just keep going as if life is just one continuous story? These time markers sort of give you the false illusion of a fresh start when, in all honesty, you really are just the same person that you were yesterday.

So after all the celebrations of another New Year, what do we really hope to get out of it? Are loftier ambitions really worth the effort? Or is the mere determination to “keep on keeping on” more than enough?

I do not know what this year holds for me, or for us as a family. I’m not entirely sure I want to find out. Perhaps it’s a certain degree of jadedness that comes with having weathered a few decades of living. Whatever the cause might be, that dreadful cloak of melancholy has come to envelope me once more.

The only thing that is maybe pushing me onwards is that I need to be strong for my little boy. That I need to give him an example to follow, a guide to help him on his way in life. That if I do right, point him towards God, implant those precious virtues into his soul, someday he will become someone significant in this world.

If I can live just to see that day, I think I will die happy.

For now, my work is far from done though so I guess there’s nothing to do except soldier on.

Michael W. Smith: A Million Lights

Just heard this song for the first time awhile ago. And I felt I just wanted to post it. However short this post may be. It being 4+am in the morning and all.

Michael W. Smith’s music has been such a big part of my life, all throughout my growing years. So many songs with tons of memories to go with them. I even had a book of piano scores for his The First Decade album which I meticulously learned to play, even memorising quite a few of them.

Even in the not-so-distant past while I was still a journalist, I remember being greatly encouraged by his more recent tunes such as You Won’t Let Go.

I don’t really know much about how he gets the inspiration for his songs or puts together the content, but I can say I have been greatly blessed by his music. This guy who is much older than I am and who lives so far away in another continent from me has made an impact in my life. I can only hope that I can someday have such a great influence on someone else.

Anyway, with regards to this presently new tune, what struck me the most was the lyrics of the second verse:

A million days
In every one I’ve seen Your face
I know I’ll never be alone
Even darkness comes awake

For You
All the stars are singing
With You
Every day I’m feeling
Alive

Even darkness comes awake.

Easy to forget, and yet, it is right there amidst the opening lines of the Bible. And if He can command light from darkness, surely everything else about my life is just a cinch to Him. It’s this assurance that makes all those million days or more of life worth battling through.

I’m not as alive as I used to be, especially in a spiritual, inner being sense. But perhaps the stars ought to remind me of those things that never change: how He holds everything together.

Hope you like the song as much as I do.