I’m crushed under a 90kg man, beads of sweat trickling down his chin before finding their home in my eyeballs. His shoulder threatens to dislodge my jaw, and all I can breathe is chest hair. I’ve spent four minutes in this position, and I have two more to go. During times like this, I ask myself: “Why did I come to class today?”
I’ve started putting down books more lately. I’ll give them one chapter of boredom before I cut my losses and move on to the next book. I used to be a completionist when it came to reading, but as I grow older, I’ve realised how little time I have to read all the books I want, so I’ve learned to become more meticulous with my reading time.
It’s not the books, it’s me. I’m aware that different authors have different styles, and not all of them are going to suit me. I’m fine with that. The literary world is entirely subjective, and the path to bestsellery often consists of just craft and luck—both unmeasurable.
I’d sent this piece in for a writing competition, but I didn’t make the shortlist, so here it is for you guys.
I had begun my trip to the highlands of Vietnam expecting to learn more about the cultures of the Red Dao minority. What I hadn’t planned for was having the trip turn into a culinary experience, which in turn had me reminiscing my own identity and childhood.
It was a three hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi, followed by a nine-hour train journey to Lao Cai. Then came the hour’s drive up the winding hills to Sapa, punctuated by the 13km hike to a Red Dao village, where I was to spend two nights.
Some ten years ago I wrote this: “I woke up to a world greyer than usual. It’s as if Crayola came and took away the colours from my life.”
No, it wasn’t a Myspace post.
Sometimes I like reading my old work just to see what I was thinking at the time, and as much as I like to poke fun at my younger self, he does give me some hints as to why I am the way I am today.
If feelings were a scale of one to ten, I would have been hovering at a three for as long as I can recall. This was why I took to reading my old posts just to see how far back I’d stopped caring.
You wake up, you get ready, you join the morning commute. You work, you eat, you join the rest of the evening commute. You spend the remainder of the day tackling odds and ends, before it’s time for bed, after which life hits the replay button. Again, and again, and again.
There’s got to be something more to this.
So you want to be a writer in Malaysia
Great. Another top-ten things article. Here’s a stick. See that dead horse? Go ahead. Have a go.
Despite the cliché, there’s a reason for all this trite. If you’ve ever asked me what it takes to be a writer in Malaysia, what courses make the best gig magnets, or what laptops produce the best word diarrhoea, then this piece is for you.
When it comes to scary moments—at least to me—in life, I’ve definitely sampled a fair share of them. This discounts the usual daily triggers, such as talking to strangers, going to lunch with distant acquaintances, and having a chatty Grab driver.