Laugh Like Her

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I’m a 26-year-old living in Singapore working a job that takes me to different countries. I buy clothes every weekend and complain about how many nights of wine and cheese my colleagues throw in lieu of a party.

I post pictures of me with large groups, great food and brilliant surroundings. I spent an evening in Paris at an apartment one street away from the Eiffel Tower with women who are so strong and brave, it’s unrealistic. You saw the champagne, you saw the image, you never saw the truth.

Welcome to the facade of us happy working women.

“I met the CEO of a fancy company. He introduced himself to me.” – I saw the CEO of a fancy company. I stood around awkwardly while he spoke to my boss because I was too embarrassed to introduce myself and so I just stared for a half-hour and he ended up being really nice and introduced himself to me.

“I went to Paris. My office sent me.” – I went to a small town that’s a one hour drive away from Paris where I didn’t realize things shut down on Sundays and has very limited vegetarian options all 7 days of the week. I lost a lot of weight and developed severe ulcers when I came back.

“Oh my God! I feel so bad. Are you okay?” – I don’t know how to care. Sometimes, I think it’s a flaw. Sometimes, I think it’s normal and we’re all like that.

Because, come on…

When someone falls down, do you actually care? Do you rush out of reflex because society has taught you to ask how they are, let them know you can help and pretend you give a fuck about anyone but yourself or is it because your heart actually hurts when you see someone fall?

I don’t. Not unless I really truly care. Which is so fucking rare. Because I’m in constant competition with everyone I know since I was in first grade. “I have to be better. I have to score higher. I have to look hotter.” You know what? Fuck that shit. Here’s the truth.

I have high-functioning depression. I see a therapist once a month. I fight with my friends every other day. I’m jealous of girls and their laughter even though I know it’s all fake, just like mine.

I spend endless hours staring at blank pages. I travel one hour in two trains to reach eight hours of work before I travel one hour in two trains to come back home and cook. I haven’t slept for 8 whole hours in a very long time. I don’t think I’m drinking enough water anymore. I don’t know if I’m eating the right things. I think I’m weak. I’m scared to check. My eyes are tired. My body is sore. My heart has been breaking in pieces for months. I’ve been staring at a draft of a second book that I can’t bring myself to edit.

I want to get married. I can’t admit it. Because it’s weak. Women don’t need men in their lives. Women are strong. Women can survive alone. But holy fuck, how desperately I want to live under one roof and play house.  Sometimes, I think it’s the companionship. Sometimes, it’s because, fuck you strong and independent, I want to be a wife.

I’ve been studying GMAT. For months. I suck at it. I want so badly to get good at it. So I pick up the book and my phone rings and I try to spend time with human beings in actual conversation but my emails go off and I want to be a good employee who responds to my boss past midnight and I remember my book that I would really really like to edit but then it’s past 1am and I have to be up at 6am and I want so desperately to sleep.

So I do none of it. I turn music on and slowly cry.

Sometimes I stare at my Instagram. Sometimes I stare at hers. I don’t know whose smile is fake. Whose laughter is painful. I don’t know whose life is a lie.

But we all want to say, “Mine.” Because I cried when I went home but I bet she laughed and loved.

I sobbed alone into my pillow but I bet he shares hers.

I broke down every night but I bet she partied forever.

Her life. Her travel. Her hair. Her nails. Her boyfriend fiancé. Because didn’t you see that ring? Didn’t you see his proposal? I did. They’re meant to be together. Maybe we’re not. They never fight. Oh, you should hear us growl.

So here we go. I’ll try this again.

I’m a 26-year-old living 3000 miles away from the people I love on a routine that leaves no time for me. I work a job that takes me to countries I can’t explore because I’m always broke. I buy clothes I can’t afford, credit card bills ceiling to floor and that free wine? It’s my one true lifeline.

I love my job. It’s the only thing that keeps me going.

But that’s the only thing you’ll ever hear me complain about.

Because, that’s the new normal, right? We’re supposed to have perfect lives and shitty jobs but it pays for the perfect life and so it’ll be yet another thing I continue to lie about?

I have a messy life.

I have shitty interpersonal relationship skills.

I have one best friend.

I’m worried sick about my aging dogs that live with my aging parents.

I’m worried sick about my aging parents.

I want to be rich through my capabilities as a creative thinker in the world of writing and advertising and marketing.

I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing.

I’m anxious 90% of my existence and you know what I do when I am?

I log on to Instagram. To look at lives I am not living. To look at lies we’re both saying.

I follow a lot of happy looking women on Instagram. Because my inspiration is not their clothes or their face or their bodies. It’s that laughter.

And so I go…

In a crowded train, early Monday morning. Staring at my phone. I find myself wonder…

What an incredible life it will be… if only I could laugh like her.

And I post yet another fake picture.

Welcome to my lie.

Figure It Out

travelnow-or-crylater-721285-unsplash.jpgNobody has it figured out.

I know how they make it look and I’m sorry we all do that one another. I look like I’ve got it figured out, too. I’d even tell you I do. But the truth is, none of us know where we’re headed.

And the ones who tell you they do, they’re telling you their imaginary version of their future. Because there are too many variables. In the things we know. In the things we don’t know. In the things we couldn’t possibly know. And they all matter in my ability to eat McDonald’s for lunch today. Let alone my ability to become a successful author 10 years from today.

But I’ll pretend. I’ll pick out my lazily ironed clothes, wear my ID around my neck and walk out of my apartment, computer in hand, looking like no-one can take away how good I feel about myself. Truth is, I feel like a mess most mornings. I’m rushing. I’m trying to be calm but I know my boss is probably already at work. I know I didn’t make lunch and will spend more money on food again. I know my hair and my life are a flipping mess. But I look like it all couldn’t be more under control and… I’ve got it all figured out.

That’s most of us, isn’t it?

I could look at your fancy new haircut, brand new clothes and that great job you have and not know that behind the screens, you went to a cheaper salon than you used to, looked for the cheapest new thing to buy because even the greatest job ever isn’t paying you enough to have sustainability and you’re struggling to make ends meet. Your responsibilities are sky high and your finances are at rock bottom. I wouldn’t know.

Your bright red lipstick and your pointy stilettos – you look like the world will bend its knee to you. But maybe, you’re depressed. Behind that smile you throw to a stranger on the train, there’s a sadness they’ll never know. That lipstick isn’t confidence. It’s the thing that holds you together. It makes you feel like you can survive the day.  Yet, I’d smile back at you as I think to myself, “I bet she knows where her life’s headed. I bet she has it all figured out.”

And so you fool me as I fool another and the cycle goes on as each of us live our lives believing that the other has it all together, has it all planned out. That the other has it better and figured out. But I… I’m just here.

I’m just in this life with no idea where I’m headed. Every plan I make, I’m terrified because something goes wrong. Something… always goes wrong. Because you wouldn’t know, looking from the outside, I struggle to make ends meet too. You wouldn’t know that I hang my head as I ask my Dad for more money. You wouldn’t know that I work so hard because I’m so afraid of being replaced. Because in this horrible, horrible world, in our terrible economy, in this shitty, shitty, shitty period of time, if you don’t have a job that pays you money, any amount of  money, you can’t really figure it out. But when you have that job, you spend all week looking forward to the weekend and you spend all weekend preparing for the week and the farthest future you end up planning are the Fridays that almost never work out the way you want it to because… You still don’t get it, do you?

Welcome to life.

I know I sound like a ball of negativity but that’s not what this is about.

It sucks. Your teenage plans don’t work out all the time. That one classmate may have made it. But he or she’s the exception, not the rule. And the thing is, it’s okay.

I like going home tired at the end of the day. I like sitting in my room with my sister and watching the most ridiculous TV show ever. I like spending my weekend preparing for Monday and I like walking into work feeling like it was all utterly useless. Because I know I’m not alone. Because I know the ones sitting next to me are just as clueless as I am.

Just as clueless as our parents are.

Just as clueless as the rest of the world is.

Because nobody has life figured out. I don’t think anybody ever did.

That’s exactly what makes it all the more interesting.

And scary. But mostly, interesting. Right?

Winning the Loss of Lives

Multiple terror attacks leave 153 killed in Paris. The word Jihadhis has been thrown around. Innocent people run scared. Border controls tightened. “Death count might increase,” say sources. “We’ve got five terrorists neutralized,” say officials. What is Neutralized? Nobody knows. Could there be more? Nobody can confirm. What about the dead people? “Our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the deceased.”

“This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.” – Barack Obama, President of The United States

Let’s rewind a little. Let’s go back in time. A whole bunch of people sat in a circle and planned the very last detail of this. They decided who will be where. Which attack at which place at what time. They shook hands on it. They did one last huddle knowing this might be the last time they see each other. But they’re going to do this. Because a message has to be sent! The world has to know!

Know what?

Let’s take a fictional book such as Harry Potter. So many lives were lost so Harry Potter could live. Did he spend the rest of his life sitting in a room depressed? No. He went on to have children and a happy life. Ronald Weasley lost his brother. Harry felt bad for those ten minutes in the movie. Then he was fine.

This is how real life works too. So you’ve killed hundreds of people. Taken away mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, loved ones. You’ve taken away the bride who was to be married tomorrow. You’ve destroyed the life of the innocent child by killing the only family he had. You’ve broken the hearts of every family member there could ever be.

The person you’re sending a message to? He couldn’t care less.

“I’ll continue killing until I get what I want!”

Okay. Then what? You run out of civilians to kill? What happens when the person you’re trying to send a message to ultimately shrugs and says “We’re trying to stop this atrocity. We’re using all our soldiers.” ? You kill them all? Yet again, you’re killing people that don’t matter. Because the story isn’t about the ones who died. It’s the one you can’t kill. It’s the one your entire plan revolved around. And he will feel bad for ten days. Then his life will go on. He’ll be fine. He’ll laugh with his children. Love his wife. Enjoy old age. You’ll be rotting in prison.

And those lives you took? They become pointless. Because that message you sent was never going to have the impact you wanted it to. Your plan was a failure before it even began because people get over the guilt of losing even a loved one that ended their life to protect his/hers.

This is a bunch of people they’ll never meet. They’ll never know. Outside of the ones who love the people you took away, who are you trying to hurt? Who do you think you can hurt?

You’re not sending a message. You’re killing in cold blood just because you can. There’s no deeper meaning to it. There’s no bigger moment. There’s nothing but your stupidity and a lost life. So what’s the point?

Now fast forward to a day or two after the attacks. The countries across the globe will unite to bring justice for the ones they’ve lost. The terrorists will be sentenced lifetime or death. But here’s the thing. They already knew that. The moment they stepped out of that huddle, they knew their life was over. So that’s not really justice, is it? You’re simply giving them what they were already prepared for. So are you really winning?

The person targeted doesn’t win because what he finally does to the ones who were targeting was exactly what they expected. And what the person targeting is trying to communicate to the targeted is lost on deaf ears. So what was this entire ordeal about?

Killing 153 innocent civilians and robbing their loved ones of memories, moments and a lifetime of togetherness. Destroying venues that would someday be landmarks. Creating world news and hatred towards an entire community that really are very nice people.

So tell me. Who won?

#PrayForParis
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Someone Cares

Like almost everyone, I went through the typical teenage phase – “nobody cares about me.” But unlike most people, that didn’t stick long because I realized that there was someone out there, who didn’t know me, that was risking their life for me.

Do you know that feeling you get when you think about someone and you smile because even if you lose everything you’ve got – your money, your looks, your memory, even – they will always care, no matter what? That’s the feeling I got and it’s a feeling I’ve carried with me through all these years.

This person, is possibly the most selfless person you’ll meet. Though his family suffers and is in utter turmoil more times than normal, he will still give up everything to give you the life you live. He might even have to leave his innocent new born so you can have a roof over your head and food to eat.

I knew a teenager about six years ago. She was just like everyone else. “The world doesn’t care. My parents don’t care. Nobody cares. My life is a mess. I have nobody.” And then one day, a YouTube video changed that. It changed the way she connected with other whiney teenage girls like her. The nobody cares turned into a “how dare you say nobody cares?”

The video was .. “Dad’s Homecoming.”

An innocent middle schooler was sitting in class when his father walks in and the kid just bawled his eyes out. He was seeing his father for the first time in three years. Because the father was too busy protecting the nation so people he didn’t know can get up and go to work without having to worry about the safety of their lives. A wife somewhere had to cope like a single parent so her husband could help some kid somewhere without the kid having to worry about his/her life and just focus on learning colors. A girl somewhere has gotten through prom, graduation, university without her father being there for any special moment just so some other girl can have the opportunity to do so without getting killed.

That video changed the way she looked at life. Somebody out there cared. He didn’t know her, he didn’t know what she did, he didn’t know her flaws and most of all, he didn’t care. He was willing to give his life to keep someone like her safe. If that isn’t care, she didn’t know what was.

That teenager was me.

There are more videos like that than you can imagine. Every one of those will bring you to tears. The sacrifice those people do is beyond me. Since then, every time I feel like nobody cares, I think of this person. This person who left his family, who left his “safe” life to go risk his life just so I can peacefully sit here and write about this.

Imagine living a life where you wake up everyday fearing that maybe your father / husband / friend / son / fiancé / brother will come home in a box, dead and cold. Having to record every moment of your child’s life in hope that someday you might be able to show it to them should they come back alive.

I am thankful to those innocent people, men and women, who give up everything they have to give me everything I have. For their struggle, for their strength and for the lost lives. Most importantly, Thank You for the care.

 

Cancer and the Battle | World Cancer Day 2014

A couple of days ago, I read the book “The Fault in our Stars” by John Green. Though it may sound overdramatic, I’m simply being honest when I say, that book killed a part of me. To lose someone you love is tragic. But to lose someone you love for no fault of his/hers is unfair. It’s also the definition of Cancer. Every day you hear stories about it. Our parents, our well-wishers inform us about the vaccines that prevent it and advise us to get it done immediately. If we have lost someone in our family to Cancer, we live in fear that we might end up having to battle with it someday.

I lost two granddads and a grandmother to Cancer. Last year, I also lost an aunt to Cancer. I can never say I lost them because of Cancer. They didn’t die because of cancer. They fought a battle. A war, even. But they lost. They lost to a disease that seems to be affecting more and more people all around us every single day.

The thing is, if someone dies of a head injury, a drunk and drive accident or even a cardiac arrest, I’d get over it. Maybe not immediately, but at some point I’d accept it and move on. But I can’t seem to do that when I lose someone to Cancer.  Because they didn’t just die. They didn’t just say “Hey, I have Cancer” and fall flat to the ground. The pain, the agony, the screaming and shouting, the mood swings, the humiliation they feel, the loss of self-esteem, the loss of a life they dreamt they’d live, the regret they feel for putting their loved ones through so much pain, hurt and trauma – if this was so upsetting for my aunt who was above 60, imagine what this is like for a 6-year-old. An 8-year-old. A teenager.

Beyond the victims, imagine the trouble their loved ones go through. The mental torture. Every time I think of it, I just want to hug them. Every parent, every child, every husband, every wife and every friend that has had to lose someone they love to Cancer. There’s a part in this book where the mother says to her husband when they think their daughter is about to pass away, “I won’t be a mother anymore.” That broke my heart. It might be a fictional story but I can imagine so many mothers out there having to live with that as a reality. What did she do to deserve that? What did that poor child attached to twenty different tubes do to deserve that?

Especially, to learn that the cancer has been cured in their system, only to go back to the hospital three years later and realize “the Cancer’s back.” I have no words to describe that emotion. I can only hope that the love and the support they find around them gives them the strength to fight and win that battle a second time. In my mother’s friend’s case, a third time.

I would have loved for an opportunity to meet my granddads. The way my nieces/nephews would someday wish to meet their grandmother and I’ll them the story my parents told me. The story of how the vicious and scary ghost of a sickness and my aunt got into a fight. How she lost to it because she didn’t have the love of a very very very adorable little child. They’ll live with that story until they grow old and learn all about Cancer. How all the love in this world couldn’t have saved her. In fact, all the love in this world cannot save anyone battling with Cancer. But it can make the difficult journey a tad bit easier.

So on World Cancer Day, this February 4th, join me along with a million others across the world to raise awareness about that vicious and scary ghost of a sickness. Teach the world to accept and love the ones struggling to fight Cancer.  It might not save them, nothing but their own strength and possibly a cure for cancer can save them, but I assure you, it’ll make their journey a lot easier.

If you or anyone you know wish to give or seek support, there are so many websites and organizations that will connect you to the patients and their families. You can simply Google them.

Last but not least, if you are someone battling with Cancer, I want you to know, you have my love and support and I will be waiting for you at the winner’s lounge. Last round’s on me ‘kay? 🙂