Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Body Hate

I'm not skinny.  My sister is, a lot of my friends are - but I'm just not.  Even if I didn't eat as much as I do, my legs still wouldn't look long and willowy, I would still feel self conscious in one of those tie-up tops; my waistline wasn't built to be shown off.  It doesn't matter if I have curves or if I have strength - I will never be able to try on one of those pretty little dresses with pinching waists, or skirts with tucked in tops, and look amazing.

I know big butts and muscle are meant to be in right now, but in my culture and my family they hate it.  Being slim and fair is considered beautiful, and although I don't consider the colour of a complexion an indicator of beauty, I can't help but feel a pang of unworthiness when a dress doesn't look right on me, or when my mum says, "I want to get this for my other daughter.  She's so slim and nice."

Being in Malaysia doesn't help at all.  In Australia I can fit into smalls, but that's because I'm short so I automatically look proportional.  Here, where I'm taller than everyone, the fact that I'm not model skinny already makes me look seemingly big, and around frank relatives who aren't afraid to state their opinions, it's scarring to the way I see myself.

I eat too much.  I know that.  I've noticed that whenever something it put in front of me, I gobble it up as quickly as I can, and while everyone else is still finishing, I can't help but reach for more.  The thing is, when you're eating so fast you don't take notice of how full you are until you're finished and can barely walk anymore.  That's me everyday, and although I'm not diagnosed with any kind of eating disorder, sometimes I become melodramatic and think I may as well have one.

One of my friends said to me once, when I was complaining, "Don't make your eating special.  It's no different from anyone else's." and she does have a point.  A lot of people suffer from this lack of self control and I'm sure you all relate to eating out of boredom and breaking down on a block of chocolate and feeling extremely guilty after.  This seems to happen to me everyday in different ways, and I finish my day feeling disgusting and motivated to change only for the cycle to begin again.

It's just so difficult when the cupboard is filled with chocolates and biscuits and those delicious creamy wafers, the fridge with cakes and the laundry room with all kinds of chips.  My family's just one of those unhealthy ones.  I don't have a mother who doesn't allow junk food - she buys them on sale, my dad eats fast food probably more than twice a week, and my sister is so skinny that my family feels the need to pile food into the house in a failed attempt to make her put on weight.  I know I should be able to work around this, but it's just so so hard.

Malaysia is like that situation on steroids - because I swear that in this country they don't know the definition of healthy.  Meals are just carbs with spices, and they seem to happen every hour or so.

I can feel the fat gathering in my arms, my belly and my thighs.  It's gotten to the point where I will feel around my waistline and try gathering all the fat in one handful at the front.  Is the remainder how skinny I could be if I tried?  Because it's not very.

I look at photos of muscled backs and bikini abs on Instagram, I watch the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, there's some girl with really nice legs on Justin Bieber's Instagram, and I want nothing more than to shed all that fat and have a 'tight body' as my current book likes to describe it.  And the thing about 'tight bodies' is that anybody can have them.  It's just muscle and not a lot of fat, so work out more, eat less: easy peasy right?

And I know looking after your body makes a real difference.  I know I feel amazing if I've worked out and stayed away from the junk - but that hasn't happened for a while and I feel like trash.  I feel like I'm just filled with toxins and I wish there were an easy way out.

Sometimes I tell myself that eating is worth it because I love it so much, and what kind of person would I be to deprive myself of something I genuinely enjoy doing.  So I eat and I eat and then afterwards I tell myself it wasn't worth it and I shouldn't have done it because I'm better than that.  I shouldn't feel guilty for every bit of food I put in my mouth, but I shouldn't overdo it either.  I have this stupid love hate relationship with food and it really shouldn't be this hard.  How do people stay healthy?  How do they do it?

And working out isn't even a problem for me.  If I tell myself to work out every day of the week, I will.  I will run as far and fast as I ask myself to, and I will do all my crunches, hold the plank for as long as the goal I set, swim all my laps - but none of it matters.  What you eat is what you are, or it determines 80% of it at least.  No matter how strong I make myself, if the fat is there, it's there.  And even if it's gone, my bones will be there to determine my shape and I can't do anything about that.

I know I should love my body for the things it's capable of doing, but I don't think I appreciate it enough.  It seems as if in my culture, in my family, strength isn't factored in as part of your body.  It's weight that matters, even if most of that weight is muscle.  My mum has said countless times, "I was smaller than you when I was your age."  And she was.  She wasn't able to run as fast or do pushups or burpees, but she was still smaller.

And maybe as we grow older I will still be able to go for my jogs while everyone else's metabolism goes down as they begin to understand my struggle, or maybe not.  Either way, I still won't be skinny.


Sunday, 27 December 2015

All the Lonely People

Christmas Eve was spent at a Japanese restaurant with a mass of relatives taking up 4 tables.  It was the first time we saw the Ls and at first it felt like an us and them - but soon I was joking around and experiencing one of the reasons I love coming to Malaysia once again.  I ate my heart out and joked about being pregnant, which I feel happens way too often nowadays, and we went up to the rooftop where we stood on a glass floor at least 5 stories up, looked over the skyline, and it was hot and sweaty and we took a very many oily faced photos.

I feel like the Grinch in the sense that I keep getting annoyed at all the Christmas songs on the radio and all those seasonal posts.  But then, I also feel like some kind of deluded elf, sending out Christmas messages to almost everybody and being overly excited for present-opening.  This year I seem to be more excited about watching my present recipients than actually opening my own presents - which can only be a good thing.  

I love how I never stress about Christmas because I know I'll be with my family and they'll be with me.

Something I've noticed about this side of the family, consisting of grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins who altogether add up to around 15 people, is that it's overly inclusive.  We can't even trek through the rainforest without taking my grandma along.  If one person is missing from one of our many group photos at un-airconditioned Chinese restaurants we have to retake the photo.  It's just so different from any other group I've ever experienced being a part of.  We didn't choose each other but we were born into this group, and because of that we will always be connected no matter what happens.  I will always have someone to spend Christmas with no matter what happens.  They will always love me even if no one else will, and that makes me feel content.

The other day I was joking to my mum about some article I saw in her Women's Weekly magazine titled, "How to Avoid Disappointment on Christmas Day," to which she replied that according to statistics most suicides happen during this holiday period.  It's because the expectation is that you spend Christmas with other people, specifically family, and when you're alone you're reminded of how lonely you are.

In some ways I feel incredibly smug that I have many someones to spend this day with, and I feel reassured that of all the annual celebrations I'm doing this one right.  On the other hand though, I can't imagine how it must feel sitting in a room all alone, reminded that you have absolutely no one.  I can't imagine what it would be like having absolutely no one, period.  And I'm scared that one day I might be on the wrong side of the world and I might have no one where I am, and then I really would be alone.  I don't want Christmas to become like my birthday: a day with a buildup of psyching myself up for disappointment.

I reckon being utterly alone is the most terrible way one could live.

On Christmas morning we followed my aunty and cousin to church, and while my dad is catholic, the rest of us don't really identify as anything - hence why we never take the bread at communion.  I do reckon it's arrogant for us to believe there is no form of higher being though, so I guess in that sense I do believe in God.

The Priest said something about how the point of buying presents isn't about giving a person exactly what they want, seeing as they're able to buy it for themselves if they really want it, but it's more about the idea that it's something from you.  It's the idea that you care enough about them to give them a gift.  I know I feel amazing whenever a friend gets me something - and I love whatever they gave me simply because it's from them.

The Church was filled with the singing and instinctive responses of a huge community of people from the same sector of the same city.  Although I may have found the allegations towards our obligation to completely worship the Lord a bit extreme, what matters is that this religion brings people together so that they are never really alone on Christmas day.  In the same way, believing that this day serves a higher purpose, and that a higher being is always with us, can make people feel less alone.

I actually genuinely reckon you can't be truly alone on Christmas day.  The people of this world are generally inclusive, and even if you don't have a built in family, there are always places you can go.  There will always be some open community to join or some other lonely soul out there.  And anyway, other people's happiness shouldn't remind you of your sadness.  Just rejoice in the fact that most of the world is rejoicing too.


Wednesday, 9 December 2015


The heat of the summer and the unimportance of every task has left me afloat.  My life has become a series of lying on the floor with my phone held above me, my room hot and stuffy, with things to do but nothing urgent to be done.  Nothing matters for the next two months other than the bags I pack.

My birthday is in 3 days but I wish it wouldn't come.  I enjoy the lead up: the presents, the food, the attention - but then the day comes with high expectations and many disappointments, because tradition puts so much weight on this one insignificant day of the year.  I refuse to pack on my birthday, I refuse to check my phone, I refuse to play the piano, so what will I do?  Why do I need this day to be so perfect?  Most people don't remember my birthday for the day that it is.  They'll remember the date of my party, what they'll wear to it, the photo they might post, but they'll never actually remember the day.  And that's fair enough.  I don't remember very many people's actual birthdays either.  I'm just not looking forward to the disappointment of mine.

The past few weeks have been a cycle of eating too much and then working out in vain.  6 years of childhood spent on ballet has trained me to suck it in for hours, and this fools me into thinking it's all okay, but when I finally let go I see my love for food right there in its physical form.  Tonight I went out for dinner with my long-legged friend in her tight shorts, while I was wearing my loose long shorts, having just returned from three hours of non-stop eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet.  My skin was oily, on the verge of a breakout, and I felt like absolute trash.  I feel so unhealthy and I'm worried because I know that once I leave for Malaysia there'll be no chance to make a comeback.

Justin Bieber's album Purpose has been playing on repeat as I wrap Christmas presents and slowly clear my room then mess it up again.  My latest hobby has been collaging, and it's extremely messy.  The desk feels gluey, the paper is everywhere, and yet I'm proud of the final result.  The last collage I made was 21 inspired.  It's this movie about some boring MIT kid who joins a secret society that counts cards in Las Vegas.  The movie's called 21 because that's the magic number in the game Black Jack.

My dad taught my sister and I how to count cards the other day.  As a bragging card counter himself, he's told me that counting cards in casinos does not lead to beating up and scary security guards, but rather polite ones who politely tell you to stop and leave.  Although the theory behind counting cards is fairly easy, I can't seem to count fast enough.  It's simple addition and subtraction, but my level of concentration nowadays is so low it worries me.

It seems as if the only thing I really am concentrating on is social media.  I'm so unhealthily self conscious, or maybe I'm bored.  I check Instagram, get bored and check it again, and refresh and refresh and post in order to make myself paranoid, and then check out what everyone else seems to be liking.  I feel the need to share all the fun I theoretically should be having on snapchat, but in reality I'm not feeling a thing.

I think I'm living for the conversations nowadays.  Yesterday we ate candy by a lake and told some truths.  Today we walked along unfamiliar neighbourhoods and had the materialistic yet honest chats that seem to shape our shallow lives.  We sat in a smothering car sharing 20 seconds of our varying music tastes without an ounce of embarrassment.

I'm beginning to feel as if there are real friends and some who aren't worth respecting anymore - some who, after talking it out, you realise aren't healthy to be around.  They may be civil to your face, but there they go talking behind your back again.  They may put on a strained voice that makes you realise they're even more insecure than you are.  They may bring up topics specifically to show you their one area of superiority, even if all it does is reincarnate unwanted drama.  They may just be fake.  But then, maybe everyone's fake until you get to know them well enough.

I read a snippet of the play This is Our Youth yesterday.  It was in something Jessica, the character played by the idealistic Tavi Gevinson, said:

"Everything you think will be different, and the way you act, and all your most passionately held beliefs are all gonna be different, and it's really depressing... Because it just basically invalidates whoever you are right now... that there's these huge swaths of time in your life that didn't register at all, and that you might just as well have been dead during them for all the difference they make to you now."

Judging from the amount my perceptions on everything have changed this year, I can't imagine how much they will change in the year to come.  It feels somewhat sad knowing that everything I think now could be wrong, and that in a year all this analysis and writing will be meaningless to me, because I'll look back and see a lesser version of myself preaching unhealthy untruths.  

I don't seem to want to go to sleep at night.  Yesterday I watched an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians from 2008 until midnight, and then planned on working on some presents.  Maybe excitement is what's keeping me awake at this exciting time of year.  Maybe I'm dazed because I'm happy and there's nothing to worry about.  Or maybe the fact that I've got no commitments has left my brain dopey and blank.

I don't feel very alive right now.


Friday, 4 December 2015

When I Grow Up

When I was 6 our class did a show-and-tell on what we wanted to be when we were older.  There was so much variety - from astronauts to ballerinas - and it leaves me wondering how our far fetched dreams become less and less so as we grow older.  Is it that we become more realistic as we get older and wiser, or is it that we lose hope?  I do personally think it's the former.

I wanted to be an author and illustrator.  As a budding reader, I was loving the Rainbow Magic series, and Go Girl, and Aussie Bites.  I couldn't see myself writing a full book though, because that seemed like the most tedious, difficult thing in the world at the time.  I did like drawing.  I liked telling stories.  So that's what I wanted to do.  Making little picture books about fairies and families were my projects back in the day.

I remember there being a lot of kids who wanted to be teachers.  Maybe it was because they were the people we looked up to.  At the time, the only adults we spoke to were teachers and our parents, so understandably we wanted to be just like them.  They were the only jobs we fully understood outside what we'd seen on TV.

I remember sitting in a park on one of our school trips - I was about 10 at this point.  These two girls were sitting on the see saw and one of them asked the other what she wanted to be.  She said she still wanted to be a teacher, the same job she'd announced four years ago during show and tell.  Is it possible that she still wants to be a teacher now, six more years down the road?  Is it possible for someone to have a calling like that?

I know I most definitely didn't have a calling.  My next phase was the architect phase.  My reasoning was that one, I enjoyed drawing; two, I liked the idea of designing buildings; and three, my second aunty who I looked up to was an architect.  One time, while we were visiting her in Sydney, she taught us how to draw up designs.  She taught us the symbols for doors and windows and walls, and how the measurements all fitted together.  I think the measurements were what killed the dream for me in the end.  As someone who finds geometry problems absolutely tedious and hair-pulling-frustrating, I couldn't imagine having to fit building parts together to the smallest millimetre.  I know that in geometry, when fitting angles and lengths together, if one part doesn't fit, or one part gets changed, everything needs to get altered, and judging from my lack of patience in maths class, I can't imagine how I would be in the real world.

As I was transitioning into high school at 12 years old, I just wanted to be rich and famous.  "A billionaire."  That was my ambition in life.  I wanted to be like the Hiltons, with my own successful hotel line, based all over the world.  I would travel via private jet and all the people who had ever known me would look up and wonder why they ever treated me the way they did.  My parents would be proud, my relatives would look up to me as the epitome of a good life.  They would brag about me.  I would go shopping in Paris.

DN and I had it all planned out.  She would own a boutique next door, and she would manage one of my hotels.  She was always the charismatic one who would be good with guests and people.  We would take my private jet shopping.  We would have the good life.  Of course it was all a fantasy, but I thought there was a possibility it would legitimately come true.

I guess the idea of becoming rich never left me, because from then on my ambitions became related to any white collar job.  It was between finance and medicine (which are incredibly different, and show just how little passion I was factoring into my lifestyle choice), leaning more towards finance.  That's what my entire family does anyway, not that I know exactly what they do.  They wear suits and live in all corners of the world - financial advisors, accountants, bankers, stock brokers, sitting on corporate boards, becoming a 'partner' seems to be everyone's goal in life?

My relatives' success in life is defined by how much money they earn.  That's how we measure how smart they are.  My mum says that in life you need to go to uni, then spend your youth (your 20s to 30s) working your butt off.  Then, when you're 40, you'll have the life you want. You'll be able to do what you want.  I was okay with this because these relatives got to travel the world.  My mum worked in Hong Kong for six months, then Japan.  They get transferred everywhere, and I figured that wearing business clothing with a big city hotel life was a life to have.  I didn't think of the job.  I thought of the lifestyle and it seemed appealing enough.  Even if I spent all my time in that new city working a job I didn't enjoy.

"Take actuary," they said, "Actuary science is studying statistics.  You'll be good at it."  Statistics and probability is another field of maths that isn't exactly my favourite.  Most of my conversations with my dad seem to involve grades and the future.  He talks about universities and the best courses and he acts as if he knows everything.

In some ways he does have a dream job though.  My dad is a scientist, because he's passionate about doing research to change or help the world.  As a water scientist, his goal is to help ensure we'll have sustainable water in the future, and help inform decisions on water distribution in all sorts of developing countries.  He travels to meetings and summits and conferences.  The only issue with all research jobs is the funding they need to do so, and sometimes a job that is a passion can become so dysfunctionally systemised.  Some of the reports they make him write up seem so pointless, and by the time that report is finished and unusable, he has to write another one.

Through our many conversations and considerations, I decided that going into finance had no purpose.  My life would be spent making money out of money, and although I may have been able to get rich, that's not the goal in life.  Although, my next option of becoming a doctor revolved around the idea of becoming rich too, just in a more fulfilling way.

So I scored myself a placement at the hospital for work experience, and as someone who has never had to stay overnight in a hospital, and doesn't really know anyone in the medical field, what I saw was an unfamiliar, interesting, shocking environment.

Nurses, physios, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, social workers, psychologists and doctors all work together on patients.  It's crazy how I never considered how patients actually lived, and all the steps involved in making their lives normal again.  I'd never really seen people that sick.  I'd kind of bypassed their existence in my brain, and meeting them was like meeting any other person.

The patients were lovely people, and as I got to know them, I found myself more and more curious as to what they had, as to what was really going on inside their bodies.  Dealing with people with strokes and infectious diseases, some were partially paralysed, weak, unable to speak and breathe on their own, seemed completely out of it, depressed, cynical - people in their most vulnerable state.

With practically all of them being well over 60, they had interesting stories to tell.  Even the ones who weren't able to speak had their ways of communicating to me, nodding and shaking their heads.  I talked to their families, their nurses, and when curiosity got the better of me I read their files.  Every case was different.  Every person was different.  And I understand now that most of the incurable people are old and having their lives lengthened for as long as possible.  I understand that when people say someone "died of old age" they don't just die one day, they have to die of something.  And dying in bed, surrounded by family, painless under palliative care - what more could you ask for?

On the last day of my placement I managed to tag along with some doctors doing their rounds.  There were the intern doctors, fresh out of uni and practically doctors already, deciding what they wanted to specialise in.  My main concern with going into medicine was how many years of university I would have to endure - which is commonly 6-8 years.  Seeing these interns, most at around 25 years old, I realised that it's worth it.  They're not old at all.  They have so much more life to live and they're already doctors making decisions and dealing with patients.

I could see myself in that position ten years from now - going from student to registrar to specialist doctor.  At 25 I would already be what I want to be, and then it would be a matter of going through different levels of superiority that don't really mean anything other than a little more responsibility.

The wife of one of the stroke patients was 87 years old, and she was a doctor back in the day.  She told me it was interesting, and I don't doubt it.  With every person and every case being different, you'd never get bored.  You're changing real people's lives, giving them use of their brains or other vital parts of their bodies.  They can go home, speak again, walk again, interact with their families again - and all they needed was an expert who understands the human body to help them do so.

I think that now that I know what I want to be, I think I now have a purpose.  I feel like I have an identity.