I read Audrey's blog post, a letter to her 16-year-old self of ten years ago, and it made me want to write a letter to MY ten-year-ago-self.
So here goes!
Dear May Lee, you are now 13. At this point, you are somewhere in the middle of Form 1, a time we both know is a period of major upheaval. Mum is still recovering; not so much from cancer but from the side effects of radiotherapy, what we, with the clarity of vision hindsight brings, know causes more discomfort and complications than cancer itself. We are very good Seventh-Day Adventists at this juncture in life: we don't eat pork, prawns, and whatever else SDA people are supposed to abstain from. Swept up in religious fervour, you wholeheartedly listen to everything the church elders tell you and embrace the lifestyle with both arms, and maybe even a leg. Unfortunately, it also makes you a bit 'weird' at a time you desperately want to be 'cool' and fit in with everybody else. You suck at being cool, by the way. Don't bluster, I know. I'm you, remember? You wanted it but didn't know how to get it, instead, you projected your inner insecurities and issues as a sullen, belligerent attitude interspersed at random intervals with the bubbliness that lurked beneath the teenage angst. Also, being bad at social hierarchies and all that bullcrap, you've invite the ire of the seniors you 'disrespected'. Which, honestly, was your own fault cos at 13 you still haven't learnt the art of learning when to shut up, you motormouth. At almost 23, you'd still be learning. And in the 10 years that sit between 13 and 23, you will have many, MANY foot-in-mouth situations. So, yeah. Learn to shut up sometimes, and think before you speak.
Being fair-skinned - before you joined the scouts, anyway - and possessing long hair (not to say pretty or what also, but apparently those two factors are pretty important to secondary-school boys) ensures that you never really lack the attention of at least one or two pimply awkward boys, but your own awkwardness ensures that pretty soon, those boys back away. That doesn't stop you from having a new boyfriend every year, though. Not that you actually know what to do with a boyfriend, do you? Don't deny lah. You DO go on awkward group dates, and going to watch Harry Potter in December with Nicholas is fun! A boy will put his arm around you for the first time, and you'd be thrilled senseless. No, you won't kiss. That won't happen until you're about fifteen. Be patient. Don't practice on your pillow either; as you find out when you're 15, pillows feel nothing like boys. Yeah I know that you're incredibly awkward and fidgety around members of the opposite sex, and I have to tell you that it lasts all the way through secondary school. Yes, you will have guy friends, yes they will continue to steal your scrunchies and hide them, and yes, you will have boyfriends, but you won't really shake the inner feeling of "OMG what do I say NOW??" when you meet boys, until you're about 18. Look, don't despair! Lots of other people feel like you, you just don't know it yet.
And brace yourself, Nicholas will break up with you VIA SMS (!!!!!) sometime next year. And a couple of years later, you will flip through a Seventeen magazine and see a section where they pose a question to a bunch of guys: 'Would you break up with your girlfriend through sms?'
EVERY. SINGLE. GUY. SAID. NO.
Except Nick, wtf.
Oh, and speaking of boyfriends. You know Alex? That loud, slightly chubby, bespectacled boy? Of course you don't. You barely notice anybody or anything outside your immediate circle. Well, he knows you. And he'll end up sitting behind you in Form 2. Remember him, he becomes the sun around which your world orbits for more than 4 and a half years. You two will get together on the 14th of September, 2004; he will cycle to the condo, take the lift up, and with cold shaky hands ask if you would be his girlfriend. You'll say yes. Three days later, due to a sudden attack of cold feet and commitment-phobia, you'd dump him. After a few weeks of angst and emoness, you'd get back together with him, and stay that way til you're 20. Things end, though, due to both of you starting to take each other for granted, plus long-distance relationships are hard to sustain. But there's no bitterness, and you still remain friends.
13-year-old May Lee, you will make many mistakes and errors of judgment over the course of these ten years, some of which will stay with you (albeit with a lessened impact!) til you're my age. You will also make many friends, some false, some true. Aida, your Standard 6 partner-in-crime when it came to reading books under the desk in class, will continue to be your friend, even across vast distances and the sad lack of Internet. When you are older, the two of you will be astounded to realise that even while on completely different continents and with minimal contact, you both managed to cultivate the same interests. She will be a friend you can talk to without fear of judgment, and even though the both of you are absolute bollocks at keeping regular contact, whenever the two of you meet, it's like you were never apart.
Pinky, your best friend from Form 3 to 5, will be with you through all your ups and downs. The both of you will randomly go into Yahoo chatrooms and chat up strangers, pretending to be 18 or 21, and you'd share your first margarita with her, feeling super grown-up. The two of you will talk about anything and everything under the sun, from whether or not you'd ever get to snog a guy, to when would be a good time to lose one's virginity, to 'Why do you think we've been put on Earth?'. Around this period, you will start to write emo poetry centering on the themes of death and broken relationships (written in the 'down' parts of your up-and-down relationship with Alex), and Pinky will encourage you in everything writing-centric. So does Aida. They still do! You'd start to think, "Hey, maybe I can do this!" At 23, you will still aspire to be a writer someday, and you will intern at an online blogazine where you sit and write articles all day to your heart's content.
You'd discover a love for literature sometime in Form 5, when you take Literature in English as an elective out of desperation because you're floundering in Science Stream. Having dropped Chemistry due to a complete lack of comprehension when it comes to formulas, you take literature, and never once look back. You take literature in Form 6 too, dropping Business because you are really quite retarded at practical things, and go on to do Literature in English in UKM. Yes, Form 6 and local university. I'm aware that it isn't the private college and overseas uni that you are looking forward to with starry-eyed anticipation, but finances dictate that you give private college a miss, and after Form 6 you will actually look forward to doing your degree in a local institution. You were aiming for UM, but due to an overabundance of (strip!) card games and talking cock in class, you wouldn't do well enough to even get into the preliminary interviews for UM. You'd then get a place in UKM, your 2nd choice, but it'd turn out awesome because you'll meet fantastic friends like Chrissy, Chris, Hani, and Sasa (I won't tell you how awesome they are, leave something for you to experience on your own muahaha). Oh, here's something you'd never expect: You'd live on campus, and you'd love it. You don't feel it now, but by 17 or 18 you'd be chafing at the bit, impatient to get out of the house and live the life that our over-protective parents are trying to shield you from. After your initial 'Omg!! So ulu!!' reaction, you will settle into campus life and live life to the fullest extent you can. You'd experience sleepovers by the dozen, the panic one gets when one runs out of toilet paper and there's no Mum to hand you a new roll, and the sudden responsibility over one's own life. True, you go home twice a month on average, but the weeks that you live away from home are like bite-sized servings of independence, which is probably a good thing because, knowing you, too much freedom at one shot would've turned you into a rabid monster.
Oh, and here's something you'd never expect: you actually get into the Dean's List a couple of times. I know right?? Shocking! Especially since you will flunk your way through science stream. You'll also join the choir in UKM, something you wouldn't ever dream of doing in school. And you'll be a debator! Finally, some use for your incessant talking and inability to NOT try to win in arguments! Uni will do you good, make you a stronger person. And guess what, Miss Procrastination, you'll still be a grade-A procrastinator of the highest level. You will complete a 10,000 word research paper in about 3 weeks and get an A, but almost kill yourself in the process. So maybe you'd want to think about practicing getting your homework done now so you don't have to go down the 4-shots-a-day-and-sporadic-sleep route that I did.
Oh, and the SDA thing? Not really working out. At 22, you would find that you don't quite believe in organised religion anymore, and start questioning what you've wholeheartedly believed all this while. I'm still trying to figure my way through this, will get back to you someday when I have!
Hmm. What else can I share with you? Ah yes. The annoying little brother who makes you watch Barney and Bananas in Pajamas all day after school grows up to me an amusing little brother. Strangely enough, the ten-year gap ceases to be a big deal once he starts speaking in coherent sentences. So PLEASE fight the urge to toss him out the window, I promise it's worth it! He's an adorable kid, and you'll be proud to call him brother.
You'll still be able to sing the Bananas in Pajamas theme song at the drop of a hat though. Some traumas are not easily forgotten.
Watch out, stormy waters lie ahead for you and the parents. Throughout your teen years you will fight with them over the smallest issues, and many times contemplate running away because you're THAT much of a drama queen. Just hang in there and try to see things from their perspective because you can be an unreasonable little bitch and you know it; one day you'll realise that you and Dad can actually sit down and have a conversation, instead of yelling and getting yelled at. And you'll realise that the parents are actually fun to talk to! And after a certain age, they stop censoring the pervy jokes, and then conversations REALLY get interesting.
Also, the time you decide to rip open a condom packet to see what a condom looks like, please for the love of God dispose of it properly because Mum found the wrapping on the floor and freaked out. And when I say 'freaked out', I MEAN it. You narrowly escaped with your life there, kid. Speaking of bad ideas, another bad idea is to buy that pink sling bag you will stumble across in Form 6. Walking around with an imbalanced load will give you scoliosis, and for months you will have back pain like you've never experienced before. At one point, you'll lie in bed and cry because you worry you'll be paralysed or something. But it's just a nerve that is out of whack because your spine is curved. And your back gets better!
One last thing? Tuition classes are for LEARNING. In Form 3, your boyfriend at the time will ask you to meet him in the bathroom area so you guys can 'talk'. Your teacher will suddenly appear (luckily the two of you were just standing there and not touching at all!) and unceremoniously kick him out of the centre. On the other hand, that humiliating incident spurs you to study like crazy and you get straight A's for your PMR. So maybe it wasn't such a bad thing after all. And funnily enough, years later you will visit your teacher for Chinese New Year and find out that she actually finds the whole incident FUNNY. And this boyfriend? He will be the first of a long line of "I'll love you forever"s that don't come true. His romantic letters will cease coming, but then again, your letters to him would too. And after your impassioned tears have ceased, you'd realise that, meh, boys are aplenty in the world.
Stay strong, babe. I know things are weird and you feel like you're floundering. Mum is sick, Dad is in Australia, and your baby brother is, well, a baby. But you'll get through it, I promise. Look at me, still around 10 years later! Don't keep escaping into books, sometimes you need to experience the real world, as confusing and painful as it can be.
All my love,
The 23-year-old you.
P/S: Guess what! Your boobs grow! And you'll actually have to wear a bra!