Saturday, April 1, 2017

Ethics

These past few weeks, I have been on the warpath. I've been calling out indifference, inefficiencies and general apathy to unethical behaviours left and right. Now, I am not a saint. Sometimes, like many people, I tread the line between unethical and ethical in my decisions. But it saddens me how prevalent these behaviours are, especially when it involves responsibilities and money.

The worst part is, no one speaks up except for me. Everyone prefers to be in good graces and happy memories even when they disagree, leaving me to take all the heat. I don't mind the heat because I know I'm right. I know that you're not suppose to use the organization's money under flimsy pretenses when you wanted to use it for personal gain. I know that as general human beings, that we have the obligation to speak out against injustices. These are all simple everyday ethical considerations that I frankly feel deep antipathy for anyone who doesn't agree with these kinds of values.

The same people who find and bend the rules to use organization's money for personal gains are the firsts to call out the government for doing the very same thing. And you wonder why corruption is so prevalent in our society? There hasn't been a system in place to ensure transparency and accountability when those should be your utmost importance when you lead an organization. It is sad and annoying that this even has to be said. But this only happens in Malaysian groups (at least from what I have encountered). There are no consequences and everyone is entrenched in groupthink- agreeing with unethical behaviours because you're justifying it through your fucking agreement with each other instead of moral reasons. You can justify murder if you try hard enough blergh.

I am super disappointed and for the first time I think, I lost my cool in public. Speaking out and then getting shot down because no one else cares enough or finds it worthy to hold people accountable was too much. This is the rot that we have to deal with in everyday's society. This is how people think. How my peers think. I am disappointed for the people who make unethical decisions but more than that, I feel hopeless that there are so many good people around them who are so complacent to injustices and wrongful behaviour that they sit there silently even when they disagree. Some even told to let it go because it's happened. Fuck that. I'm not gonna let it go. I'm not gonna let someone who abuses their power off the hook just because he knows how to bullshit his way out of sticky situations. You can use all the flimsy excuses in the world but I can see through your fucking bullshit. The way that you speak about money and taking advantage of other people is frankly disgusting.

So yeah I am being super vulgar because I am super frustrated. I have now become the most hated person in this community but I don't give a fuck. They can say all they want about me but they can't say I'm wrong or I'm bringing it up because I have something to gain. I have nothing to gain. All I want is for people to understand that you can't run something to the ground, strip the organization to its parts and then justify it because you're gaining something out of it. Take responsibility for your failures, know that you should try hard  and apologize to all the people who trusted you. People give you amanah and you just disrespect it without a care in the world. So fuck that. And fuck you.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Eating clean and exercising

Who am I?!?!

I'd never thought I would do a post where I'm talking about living the healthy lifestyle. I guess one of the perks of getting older is confronting the fact that many of the things you thought matter when you're younger... just don't. 

I've never been naturally blessed with high metabolism. But I was skinny as a kid. Once I hit puberty, it went downhill from there. I've been a chubby girl since then. And I would have never admitted that if you asked about it 2 years ago. Body image is just something I steer clear from. I don't respond well when people talk about my body. Growing up in the culture that I'm used to, it gets pretty uncomfortable. Especially when a male relative comments on how much I've lost weight or gained weight. It's just that in my head space, something unacceptable. I feel like I'm being reduced to the numbers on my scale.

But I would be lying if I say it didn't affect me and how I perceive myself. At 9 years old, I was obsessing with how fat I've gotten. And I was still a child. I don't eat obscenely large amount of food, even now. And I can say that sincerely because my relatives would point out: "you don't each much, but you're so fat". Of course that affects me. When I was younger, I was hailed as being the "prettiest" of the bunch because I have really fair skin and hazel eyes and my face is round and my nose is pointier than most of my cousins or siblings'. And as I was growing up and put on extra weight, relatives would look at me and ask "what happened?" It stings. It still does. 

So I would go up and down in size. Ever since I was a child. Entering high school, once again I'm being confronted with my own body image. This time, to compete for the attention of the male species. I was 15 and single. I've never had a boyfriend. Never even talked to a boy because I was in an all-girls school. Meanwhile, my friends around me are being noticed by boys, except for me. And the only way I knew how to be better and prettier and worthier is by crash dieting. I remember during the end-year school break and a long stretch of time where I would literally lie in bed and not eat a thing for the whole day. And that would go on for days until my mum would notice how I'm not eating at all and force me to eat. I lost a lot of weight. And I was noticed by the male species. And I was "pretty" again. 

But I never knew what healthy is. When someone comments about my weight, they don't do it to get me to live a happy lifestyle. How do I know this? Because they were raving at how good I look when I'm literally starving myself. I lost a lot of hair because I just wasn't not eating or having my required vitamins. I would lock myself up because I just can't look at myself in the mirror long enough to get ready. I was scared of how I look or what food can do to me. That unhealthy relationship was soothed with the first "you look so thin" or "wow, you're so pretty" or "you're so slim, how did you do it?". Little by little, I started to like myself again because everyone seems to like me. 

And as I grow up, I realized that there are way more important thing that can consume my life. Such as where I'm furthering my studies. Or whether I'm moving 9000 miles away from home. And my body image falls to the back of my mind and became a mild annoyance unlike what it was before. I eventually gained back all the weight I've lost when I'm at heaviest. 

I would be lying if I say I'm happy about it or that I don't care. Because I do care. But it takes so much effort to care that I've taught myself how to be secure. How to like my body the way that it is. And I can still hear the snarky comments from my male classmates when they look at my older picture; "wow, you're so skinny back then. What happened?!" or "What did you do at home? Did you eat a lot? You seem heavier". And it stings just as bad as it stung before. But I don't internalize them anymore.

 I do not let those little snarky comments wound my self esteem. Because I know that my body or the way that I look means little compared to how people say my eyes sparkle when I smile. Or how I know all of these things that I could not have known in high school. Or even how these guys who would be quick to say that I'm fat would come to me to ask about their homework because I'm literally the only one who has the answer. My body was never a factor when I applied for internships this summer and managed to secure 3 offers from coveted audit firms and a research institute before March. I am more than what I look. And for what it's worth though, I actually like the way I look. 

Which is why I have managed to come to this point in my life where I'm concerned about being healthy. I'm concerned about exercising and I'm not doing it to see the numbers on the scale go down. I'm doing it so that I can sit upright for a long time without hurting my lower back. Or so that I can dangle my arm and not get tendonitis. I want to be strong so that I don't need my boyfriend to carry my groceries for me. None of those reasons include wanting to look good for the guys in my life. In fact, I wish they would shut up about my body because it has nothing to do with them.

So yeah, I'm still struggling. I like to eat rice. A lot of rice. And I like sweet tea and coffee. I'm recording this so that I will hold myself accountable. I will exercise and eat right so that I'm not bloated by the end of the day. So that I will not get hypertension by the time I'm 30. 

I am determined because I know it will be a long road ahead. I know that nothing will change overnight. But I know that my the end of the year, I will feel so much better. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Hulla ballooo

The social media outburst against Disney's decisions to postpone indefinitely Beauty and the Beast's screenings in Malaysia was unfortunate and unwarranted. I am not here to argue the mechanics behind this decision: why, Disney did what it did, but rather what leads to the controversy in the first place.

I would argue that LPF's insistence that it will only allow the movie to screened without the scene depicting homosexuality really points to the larger issue of how homosexuality is viewed within the context of the Malaysian society. I don't want to argue one way or the other because I don't think my views on homosexuality are relevant in the larger scheme of things. However, I do want to point out the kind of inconsistencies and double standards that Malaysian institutions (LPF, religious bodies) and some citizenry have against specific issues.

Within the context of the Malaysian society, the normalization of LGBT communities are seen as sinful and unacceptable. This is not a secret. However, I do want to point out that rape, murder, backbiting, and adultery are all seen as sinful and unacceptable too. In fact, I would argue that rape, murder, backbiting and adultery are worse than being gay. There should not even be a comparison. But under artistic license, we are okay with the depictions of these sins. Some of them are not even being depicted in a negative light. Ombak Rindu comes to mind with its backwards interpretation of what rape is. For goodness sake, the female protagonist married her rapist to "halalkan" their sexual relations.

So who decides that being gay is more messed up than a Stockholm syndrome developed by a girl which led her to beg her rapist to marry her? Who decides that Harry Potter which tries to normalize witchcraft (sihir) is acceptable and being gay is not? Gay people exist, but I know a number of friends who have pre-marital sex. Both are vilified within the context of society, but only one invites the kind of frenzy and controversy we see surrounding the Beauty and the Beast. Also, Belle is in love with a beast, which is literally bestiality. And I have yet to hear any arguments against normalizing relations with animals...

I take issue with the kind of arbitrary nonsense that people are basing their values on. The quick answer is that homosexuality is treated differently in Malaysia because we have enough people at the top with support of religious bodies normalizing and vilifying this issue. The same kind of attention and energy somehow had not been directed to condemn real, systemic issues such as domestic abuse or even rape. Not many recoil at the thought that a movie is arguing marrying her rapist as her path to happily ever after. I for one think that it's absurd but I don't argue that we should ban Ombak Rindu. I accept that not everyone thinks the way that I do.

Here's what it comes down to: if we want to apply moral concept to everything in our society, we have to be unequivocal in our application. We have to be clear of the specific moral concepts that works for everyone in this nation. If not, the inconsistencies are glaring and we are perpetuating arbitrary codes of conduct that can easily be used to abuse minorities and people who don't agree with us.

There also comes another big problem. How do we regulate moral codes? How can we decide what is acceptable and what is not? Who are we to decide? I don't have the answer to that, and I suspect no one does. We can go down the path of Saudi Arabia where everyone has to abide to one specific code but I don't see the country as being exemplary by any know standards. And even their code is ridden with unavoidable inconsistencies that stem from human errors or just prejudice.

I would argue then that we should reject the kind of outdated traditionalist approach to society. If we can't objectify something, who decides the rules? Why are we so open to a system where a few people or segments of society have a say in what is acceptable?

I radical rethinking is needed to how we conduct ourselves. Now I'm not a self-important snob, so I will end by saying that this is my opinion and it's not popular. It's not unpopular too- they're just my conjectures.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Strength

I reject the notion that travelling is good for you  me.

Notice how I struck "you" and replaced it with "me"? Because it's not good for me. It causes me heart palpitations, back aches, sleep deprivation and chronic home sickness.

Now don't get me wrong, I do travel sometimes. I do enjoy looking at different places, getting my picture taken at world famous monuments but... it's a constant struggle. A struggle that as I am now well into my spring break (my last one, mind you) don't really associated with relaxation and refueling my energy for the rest of the school year.

I attribute it to my inability to chill out. I need to plan everything to the T. I have taken many personality tests and all of them told me what I already know: I have the lowest tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. I will literally have heart palpitations if I'm thrown off my well-crafted plans. And being in a strange place, not knowing anyone there is the most ambiguous situation I can think of. I literally need to have an hour by hour itinerary of the places I will visit and then research how to get there. It takes me hours just to plan a 3 day trip. So no, although flying off to Europe might seem like a good idea at a whim, it causes me too many anxieties to ever think that it's worth it.

Not to mention that airports are literally the worst place to be. The American airports I mean. Going through security and immigration would never be tolerable for a hijab wearing gal such as myself.

I don't know the point of this post. I just know that I need to get over it. I don't ever feel like I'm losing out by not travelling. I honestly think that I've seen the world enough. I've been to 3 continents. More than 15 states in the US. I've been to the East Coast 3 times. Southeast once. Western and Central Europe once. And the Middle East loads of time. I don't know. I just don't feel excited or relaxed at the idea of travelling. I'd much rather watch a movie or a theater production.

I have a few days until school restarts. I will spend that time reading blogs, writing in my diary and doing Pop Pilates on YouTube lol.

P.S. I started the beginner's calendar 3 days ago. My muscles literally felt like they have been torn apart. I have yet to proceed to Day 2 because of the excruciating pain on my abdomen. I have no core strength that it would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic.


Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year

Well, I have one hour until it's the end of first January. I like to self reflect at the end of the year, just to see how far I've come and what I have going on for me.

I guess, professionally, I gained some new experiences. Led Malaysian Night, participated in Model Arab League, traveled to Boston and Orlando, ventured out of my comfort zone a little bit, had my first ever professional experience in a corporate setting.

I consistently feel underwhelmed by my achievements though. Maybe I wanted to do more. But I am in a good place, nevertheless. Pretty content, albeit a little bit stagnant.

I guess 2016 had been more geared towards developing personal relationships and regulating emotions. I am more ready to commit to long term relationships now. I have also felt stinging defeat and rejection, professionally and personally for perhaps the first time ever since I've been alive. I know it's kind of crazy to say that, but it's true.

All my life, I've had instant gratification although in my teen years I remember a lot of angst (but I was a teenager, that might have just been hormones). I was the top of my class through my primary school years. Going into secondary school, I ceased to care about my studies as much but always do well in things that I do want to do well in. I don't work as hard towards my academic in high school because I saw it as pointless and my results reflected that so I did not mind as much. But I got what I wanted for SPM and then a scholarship to the US. I am the first among my cousins and sibling to have studied abroad and am hailed as the "gifted" in my family and extended family. I know I am mediocre at best but when told your whole life that you're a special snowflake, you tend to fall for it haha. And it wasn't empty too. In many ways, I could see I was at least kind of special. Despite minimal efforts, I am always placed in the first class at my high school. Despite studying for only 3 months and sleeping consistently in classes, I managed to get straight As. It's been gratification after gratification.

But I resolved to be exceptional in university. I have been working really hard academically- more than I have ever worked my entire life. I took on different projects to polish my flat resume. And a lot of times, I have faced rejection too. Getting a B for a course I stayed up nights for. Getting only 1 interview from the countless internships that I have applied for. That's just some of it. And it stung. It brought me back to reality.

It stung so bad, I was on the verge of collapsing many times. But I also realized that I am strong enough to persevere. Giving up was never in my vocabulary even when I thought I could not go on any longer. Whenever I get knock down, I cry a lot. I remember being a leaked pipe, unable to stop myself from tearing up at public spaces that I have to hide behind my study table to tell myself to pull it together. I've felt the lowest of low, but I came back swinging. I count my blessings and I talk about my experiences literally to anyone who would listen. And then I take on new challenges like travelling to Boston with a group of people I barely knew to debate about Middle Eastern politics. Who would've thought that I would ever do that??? I certainly didn't.

My personal relationship took a hit too. Someone who I thought was a sure thing before hurt me in ways I never thought possible. But instead of holding a vengeance, I reflected too. And I realized that nothing happened in a vacuum. And although this might sound Stockholm-ish, I have my share of blame in how the situation deteriorated. Once I've realized that, it became easier to fix things instead of throwing away what's broken. And we came back stronger too. I became happier and commitment became less scary.

I guess, I could look back at 2016 and say that it's a shitty year. It's tumultuous, unstable and extreme. I lost my grandmother whom I was very close to. But I would be lying. 2016 had to happen so that I could be where I am right now. Idk if 2017 will be as mind boggling but I finally feel like I am growing up and am journeying on a new phase in my adulthood. Hopefully this trend will continue. And if there are more hardships to endure? I don't mind a bit because I always seem stronger by the end of it.



Sunday, December 11, 2016

Complexities

I have a predicament. I am currently wrestling with many inconsistencies in my fundamental beliefs and my outlook towards the world as a whole as I continue to grow and learn.

I am a Malaysia student, funded by the government to study overseas. I have used this opportunity to the best my ability. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the world and become engaged global citizens, not just cooped up in my bubble of opinions - afraid of change and challenges to my opinions.

To be fair, I'm never very opinionated but growing up around Islamic conservatism and in a Malay family who believe that race is fundamental part of our identity shaped my views somewhat. I also credit it to how I stay grounded even as I fly 9000 miles away from home. I am unapologetic about my identity and the make up of my ideology. I regularly speak up in class and give my opinions as a Malaysian. And at the first opportunity I will make the distinction that I am not American. I'm also clear that I want to go home after my studies, no question or hesitation. I regularly volunteer to speak at interfaith dialogues to dispel some of the negative connotations in Western countries about Muslims.

However, despite staying grounded, I also struggle to reconcile the problematic side of my own identity. I grapple with my own privileged position in Malaysia as the majority who probably at some point in my life have contributed to the alienation of the minorities in my community. Politically, my race dominates and I am here on scholarship to a certain extent, because of my race and who I was born as.

Alas, it is not that simple. As much as I want to make the comparison to what I learn here in the US about White privilege, I cannot easily apply it to Malay privilege. I have felt what it's like to be discriminated because of my identity in my own country. I have been rejected when I applied for simple jobs because I wear the hijab or because I don't speak a third language, or from a certain ethnicity. I have felt the stigmatization from other races because Malays are seen as lazy or complacent. I have also been told that the picture on my resume in a hijab can be detrimental because religious symbols are not well perceived in Malaysian corporate culture. I also saw how my own relatives are still largely recovering from the colonial legacy of poverty and till this very day, have not been able to break out from the poverty cycle.

I am not a victim, certainly a far cry from a "victim". But I detest the oversimplification from both sides of the spectrum regarding racial relations in Malaysia. Some "woke" Malays and minorities are quick to draw comparison between Malay privilege and White privilege. But Malays weren't the oppressors, we were all in the same boat under British colonization. Yes, constitutional advantage exist under the quid pro quo arrangement to grant citizenship from our other minorities friends at that time, and maybe times are changing and reforms have to be carried out, but this systemic advantage had not sufficiently advantaged the Malay to the point of their domination of the economy.

From the other side of spectrum, rural Malays are quick to blame their economic anxiety on minorities and non-bumiputeras. They tout Malay supremacy because that's the only thing that made sense to them largely because of the role of the populist government whose grassroots support comes from  this idea of Malay supremacy. This is extremely problematic, to say the least.

What is the point of this post? It is that there are no simple answers. I am still trying to reconcile my own belief and recognize my privilege in the context of my society. But I have to do so while trying to be true to the struggles of my own people if I want to be honest with my self and my convictions. I have seen the community I grew up in the rural areas being called idiots by the people in the city where I spend the later half of my life because of their political beliefs. I have seen them being undermined by the ruling elites who despite wanting their political support actually did little in making their lives better. I have also seen the detrimental effect of Malay privilege to the lives of minorities who could not get to the same universities I could get in because of their race. Who received less support although they too live in poverty just because of their race.

Dialogues should not be along the lines of black and white where the other side dismisses each other for being "idiots" or "Western liberals". Dialogues should take into account that race is not the only factor when talking about "privilege". Dialogues should not endeavour oversimplify a complex issue.

And me? I will continue to learn and accept that my identity and convictions can be as fluid has to be fluid if I ever want to arrive at enlightenment in which I can be 100% sure of my place in this world

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Small Win

I had a goal when I decided that the US will be where I continue my tertiary education. I love learning and I love being excellent. I never experienced this kind of passion when I was in high school. In fact, everyday felt like I was tied to a shackle. But when I started learning things in Drake, I found my passion.

I also found out that hard work reciprocates. I found out that I was capable of doing things I never imagined of doing. Who would've thought that little old me would lead a team of 12 people and sold out 370 tickets to an amateur show. Tickets were priced at $10 each when all of the other cultural shows had a truckload of funding and were able to sell tickets at $2. Then came the highlight of the year when we won the Most Outstanding Social Program Award in the whole of University. I made that possible.

I did not sleep and chased down and talked to anyone who would listen how Malaysian Night 2016 would change your life. I was rejected and talked over and talked about. All the while struggling to maintain relatively good grades.

But this semester, I drowned. Classes were getting harder, things were picking up at breakneck pace and for the first time in my life, hard work did not reciprocate. Hard work failed me. I felt like I was shaken to my core. That everything I thought I knew was false and I had been deluding myself.

I am not this excellent person I aspire to be. I am just a girl doing everything she can and gets lucky once in a while. It was... awful.

It have never felt that way before. I was faithless in my ability and what I knew. I am becoming timid and quiet because I feel so small all the time. Because I felt failure over and over again despite my best efforts.

And I began to think what if this is it? What if this is my limit? I never entertained the possibility that there is a limit to what I can achieve. But this was it. I finally realized my full potential and its just downhill from here.

I am questioning everything I know. And that is the hardest thing that I have had to do so far in my entire life. I didn't have a lot going for me but I could count on myself. Now, I can't anymore.

But today, after staying up all night and working on the Model Arab League conference that I will be going in November, my team leader told me that my sample resolution was the best in our small team of 8 people. And I am reminded of why I work so hard. It is because of this simple wins in life that reminded me although I can't do everything, I can do some things and I can do it well.

It reminded me that I don't have to trade my tendency for hard work with cynicism. I needed a small win today, and goodness it felt so good when I got it.