Monday, 3 November 2014

To Mom and Dad, from an Ex Gaming Addict.

Dear Mommy and Daddy (and I guess, my brother and sister),

It's been a while since I've lived under your roof. I now have a family of my own. I come back from work every day to a house where I'm responsible for the upkeep, and though I'm not completely independent of you yet, I am responsible for a lot more things, as I'm now a parent too.

So I'd like to apologise to you, for the years that I spent being addicted to video games.

I'm sorry for the many times you knocked on my door and came into the room, hoping to have a conversation about your day, or my day, only to have me glued to the computer, completely uninterested in anything you had to say. I'm sorry that I only sought you out when I had a problem, when I was in need of something, while I ignored you when I had whatever I wanted.

I'm sorry for all the dinners that you spent with an empty spot at the table because I just wasn't done yet, probably because I decided to start on a new game even though I knew it was almost dinnertime. I'm sorry that you had to come upstairs to personally invite me to dinner; I wouldn't even come downstairs beforehand to help set the table, and I usually wolfed down my food and rushed upstairs. What should've been the only time of the day when we had the whole family together was ruined because I was never there, either physically or in spirit.

I usually wouldn't even help to wash the dishes afterwards. And I'm sorry for that. And all the chores I left undone or half-done because I just couldn't be bothered to do them properly when all I wanted to do was play games, games and more games. You had to remind me every single day, bug me every time I ran upstairs, to mop my room, put away my washed and ironed clothes, tidy my room, help out with cleaning or feeding the cats. You would come home after a hard day at work only to have to cook and wash up, while I did absolutely nothing to help. Your weekends were spent catching up on chores while mine were spent catching up on sleep... and yet more gaming.

You were last on my priority list, and I can never give you back those years I spent throwing away what could've been quality time spent with you. Gaming wasn't just a hobby for me - it turned into a full-blown addiction, and I let it take over all aspects of my life. And for that, I'm sorry. I know now, how it is to feel ignored by someone you love, to want time together only to be constantly rebuffed in favour of pixels on a screen. I wish I'd had the empathy to see things from your point of view before I had to go through it myself.

I know we don't see each other very much anymore now that we lead very separate lives, but I would like to make it up to you, and I hope I have in some way, by the conversations we've had and the (admittedly not enough) time we've spent hanging out. I would like to do more of that, and make things even better than they are now.

I pray I can.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Special Delivery.

Dear Geoffrey,

It's been a long time coming. I wouldn't want you to grow up and wonder why your aspiring author mother never wrote you anything, so I promised myself I would write you something when you're six months old. It's hard - impossible, really - to put into words all I feel about you, but here goes.

As I write this, you're sleeping beside me, one hand resting on my arm, in a bed that's too small for two adults and a baby, who all seem to have sleeping disorders. Today you turned six months. Today is also the first anniversary of the day I first saw you in an ultrasound, a little jellybean chilling in my belly. Before that day, when I first knew you existed, I loved you. It wasn't easy. I was in love with your father, but things were still uncertain, unplanned, but I loved you, and I knew that I could not live this life if I did not accept you into this world wholeheartedly. That day, one year ago, I knew it would be worth it. And on 31st January at 9:07pm, it really was all worth it. Even now, as I look at your eyelashes dusting your rosy cheeks, your chubby little hands gripping the blankets, your pursed lips, as I listen to the sound of your breathing, I cannot believe how lucky I am to have you here.

Mothers have the strange position of being both overrated and underrated. The role that a mother, or perhaps, more correctly in this day and age, a stay-at-home parent of either gender, is often a thankless job, and the contributions you make as one are seriously undervalued. And yet no matter how shitty, how awful and abusive a parent may be, there will still be people who will say hey, she's your mother, you have to give in to her. And I don't believe in either of those extremes. Being a parent is tough. Having everything you do produce results in someone else's life is a huge responsibility to have, but I don't think I deserve any accolades for merely bringing you into this world. I don't think I deserve any praise for trying to be a better person for you, because that's just what I'm supposed to do. That's what you do when you love someone. Even when it's uncomfortable, when it's inconvenient, you still give the best you can, because you don't matter as much as they do. Being a parent has always been portrayed to me as a sacrifice. To me, it has been a gift. You are a gift, and I will never stop being grateful that you came into my life and made me realise there were depths of my heart I had never even knew existed, much less explored.

That being said, I'm not a perfect parent, nor a perfect person. I have made mistakes, will make mistakes, and I am sorry. Every day I try to improve, but it doesn't always work out the way I want it to. The same goes for the world. I wish it was a better place for you to grow up, but even if it's not, I'll sure as hell try to make your world a decent one. And as you grow I hope to instil in you the understanding of what truly matters in life. All my life I've been a chameleon, changing myself to make everyone around me happy with me, and the person I've hurt most is myself.

As you grow up, I hope you find you. I hope you grow to look in the mirror every day and are happy with the person you see, but never stop striving to be even better than that. I hope you live your life as far as possible from material pursuits, because there will be many of those. People will judge you for how much money you make, the house you live in, the car you drive, the clothes you wear. Those things are nice, but they are not the things you will be remembered for. We are more than our appearances and our possessions. We are hearts and minds, and the footprints we leave on the lives of those whom we love and love us in return will matter more at the end of our days than the footholds we have on the unending ladder of material success we're expected to climb.

When you're old enough to read this, I hope you know that I mean never to hurt you, that I love you and will always love you. No matter what you do, what you become, where you go. The past six months have given me the best moments of my life, and it's all because of you. I cannot express how much I love being your mother. From waking up to see your cheeky, smiling face every day, to watching as you fall asleep every night, from doing the stupidest and most random things to make you laugh, to comforting you as best I can when you cry, from holding you close and sniffing your sweet baby scent, even to changing your stinky poopy overflowing diapers - I love it all, because I love you, and you are my everything, the breath of my life and the blood in my veins. Your joy is my happiness, your sadness my sorrow, and my heart will be yours for all of my days.

Go forth and be awesome, little buddy.

Saturday, 4 January 2014


An old friend passed away this morning.

Brain cancer. I never knew until the message dropped in last week from one of our friends. Guru's in the hospital, and it's bad. So bad that later they told me it might be his last night. I took a cab from my place, wondering what to say when I saw him, what to do. Could I make him laugh? Could we share a few of those memories that we'd made together, the five of us, six years ago in MDIS?

The answer was no. He breathed through a mask, his chest rising and falling exaggeratedly. Clustered around his bed were friends and family members, and most painful of all, his wife, whom he'd married in July. I thought that he was gazing at her, with bloodshot, half-open eyes. As I approached, I realised he wasn't seeing anything. He wasn't even conscious.

Ever so often his wife would take his hand in hers, lean in to kiss him on the temple, whispering in his ear. I just stared. Once, she turned and looked at me. I don't know what I saw in her eyes, but I pursed my lips and looked at the floor. What could I say, or do, for her? I didn't even know her, never met her. All I'd known was that he got married, and we were all congratulating him on Facebook.

We'd tried to make plans over the last six years, to meet up again and have potato wedges with chilli crab dip from Muddy Murphy's Irish Pub. Or the char kway teow in Queenstown, near the MDIS Unicampus where we spent many afternoons laughing over the dumbest things. He once told us the grossest story about bean sprouts. I never liked sprouts before that, and I liked them even less after.

We were always too busy to meet up after the diploma ended. Why?

As the three of us sat outside the ward, we recounted our experiences together. We realised that we had never taken a picture together, our slacker project group. Yong was telling GP about how the lecturer had said that the groups couldn't be made up solely of guys or girls. Yong lost the oya peiya som, and had to approach me to join them.

I never thought "the rest is history" would be such a painful phrase.

We had two girls with our group for one of our subjects and secretly ridiculed them about their e-mail usernames. Pink Baby and Reddstars. Or was it Reddstarrs? Or Redstarrs? I don't even remember their names, just the way Guru said their usernames in that accent of his, Queen's English. He told us that nobody understood him when he came back to Singapore from Scotland, because of the Scottish accent, which he painstakingly got rid of, assimilating himself back into our culture, no matter how stupid he thought we were.

"It's football, not soccer," he'd say disapprovingly when the topic of the English Premier League cropped up. "Only you Singaporeans would support a team that isn't even in your country."

Tiger beer is lager. Old Speckled Hen, the amber liquid topped with its thick, creamy layer of white foam, is ale. They're different. Don't call them beer. And for heaven's sake, don't order Kilkenny's at Muddy's, you'll just look like an idiot. His opinions were blunt, and he never minced his words.

When he felt like making us laugh he'd turn on the most exaggerated Indian accent ever, bobbing his head and taking on a heavy, gravelly voice.

"Mariaaaaa," he'd call. "Vaaaat are you doing?" It was the only time he ever called me by my first name, after he'd discovered that my middle name was Kristin.

"Kristin!" he exclaimed. "That's my all time favourite lass name. Maria sucks. I'll call you Kristin from now on."

He was an asshole, albeit a funny one.

"I can't stand it when I state what I think of something and someone goes YA!!! I'm like, get your own opinions!"

I wonder if I answered that with YA!!!! I don't remember now.

"Oh my god you looked so much better in your old pictures. You need to grow out your hair so it's wavy again. And dye it brown. Your hair now is shit. I would totally have dated you back then. But not now."

Gee thanks. Fuck you, Guru.

Of course I never said that then. I didn't swear then, I was Christian.

"You know, nobody in class likes you," he said once.

"Oh?" I answered.

"Yeah nobody can stand you. They're all like, what's her problem? And I just tell them, you know, she's Christian, and then they go, oh, that makes sense. That explains it." I laughed so hard at that. I still laugh at it. I can still hear his voice. He was usually all happy and cheerful with a heavy dose of sardonicism, it was easy to miss the depression, the insomnia that frustrated him, the slashes on his forearm, old scars. I had them too, but we never really talked about the reasons why.

I remember him calling me late one night.

His friend had tried to commit suicide, getting himself run over by a bus. Guru asked me if I could help pray for his friend. He was an agnostic; he didn't believe in God. He needed a good Christian to pray, he said, when I asked him why he couldn't pray himself. I didn't even know the guy. Guru felt strange, praying only in this time of need, knowing he'd turn his back on God again later. He made me promise to say the prayer. I prayed as soon as I got off the phone, after telling him it was never too late to come back. I prayed for his friend, and for him.

I'm no longer a Christian. I wonder if he was still agnostic till the end.

He was smart. So very smart, acing the exams after a day of studying and a year of fooling around at the back of class. He wanted to be a professor, he told us. Get his double PhD and be one of those brilliant, gruff professors in a university, the kind you read about in books, the kind that inspires you to think. I always thought he'd be great at it. He was always eager to learn. He considered it a huge waste that I wasn't going to finish my degree, going as far as offering to help me pay the thousands of dollars for school fees so I could do it. I didn't take up the offer, of course. How could I ever have paid him back?

He always wanted to learn the violin, he told me once, but it isn't as easy starting late in life when you're left handed. Something we had in common. Years later when I stumbled across a Romanian company that sold lefty violins, I called him up asking if he wanted one. We both never got around to it. But I still have the rest of my life, while he's... Gone. Forever. I'll never see him again.

Yet what is my grief compared to that of his family? How do I say anything to parents who have to bury their son, a woman younger than I am who is already a widow? He touched my life. He was a good friend, a close friend, one I shared many thoughts and experiences with, one I respected. And yet I barely saw him over the past few years except when we bumped into each other. We didn't talk regularly. It's not like we met up much. Or at all. My everyday life will go on, unchanged by his absence. Why do I feel like this? Why does it hurt? I thought I'd accepted that he was good as gone, when I saw him in that state in the hospital, but part of me still hoped for a miracle. For him to wake up, for the cancer to go away. For it to be alright. But it isn't.

Was it the smoking, the drinking? Brain cancer, gosh, it doesn't get much worse than that, does it? All the times I kept nagging them to quit smoking, only to cave and follow them for smoke breaks, breathing in the sickeningly sweet smell of those cherry cigarettes the girls liked, waving smoke out of my face as we sat by the side of the road like bums. I should've nagged more. I should've done a lot more, as a friend.

All these regrets are meaningless if I don't act on them. I have people in my life now, still alive, whom I have to cherish while they're still around. Meanwhile the four of us left of that odd group will continue on. Yong said the other day that time passed so fast. GP has three kids, I'm gonna have my first kid, Lester is still Lester, Yong is still Yong, and Guru is dying. Was dying. Is dead.

If I could see him again, I wouldn't know what to say. Thank you? For being a friend, for having an impact upon my life, for that little bit of change you made, for the times we shared. I will never forget you.

"It well may be that we may never meet again in this lifetime,
So let me say before we part,
So much of me is made from what I learnt from you.
You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end,
I know you have rewritten mine, by being my friend.

... Who can say that I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good."

- For Good, Wicked the Musical

Monday, 23 December 2013

Tis the Season...

Now that I've finally found the time - and head space - to write, I'm finding myself lost for words. Or at least, thoughts coherent enough to be processed into words worth reading. But since this is for myself, I suppose I'll just let myself ramble.

They say time flies when you're having fun. I don't know if you could call this year fun (dramatically exciting would be a better description), but time has most definitely flown by. It's been a year now, since I left Garena, and I'm eight and a half months into pregnancy.

Holy shit.

And as much as I wish I didn't transform into Would-Be-Momzilla, many of the thoughts in my head now are to do with the upcoming baby... And how on earth I'm going to transition from, well, me, into mom material. The other thoughts are whether I have transitioned from, well, me, into wife material. They  say you know you love someone when you wake up wanting to be a better person for them. I guess nothing has put that into perspective for me more than becoming a wife and soon, a mother.

Sometimes I'm still like what the fuck I am going to have a baby. I wonder if the baby's first word would be fuck. Or something equally damning. That would be unfortunate. I might find it funny. Well, I would find it funny, but I would pretend to be aghast along with everyone else.

But yes, back to all that... I guess in some small, selfish way, I wonder if I will ever have any 'me' time, again. For the next ten, twenty years. This year has been full of compromises and sacrifices, and it makes me wonder, honestly, whether that will ease up, or get worse, with a child in the picture.

For all these things, have I become a stronger, or weaker person? I should know the answer, but I really don't.

But for now, I really should get back to ironing. Let's hope tomorrow actually feels like Christmas Eve. Happy holidays, everyone.