My face folded into a curious squint. Two days ago, as I searched the night sky for an answer, this Malay word genied out of this unilingual brain of mine: kebiasaan. It just came out of nowhere.
I did not even know if there was such a word.
I summoned my eleven years of formal Malaysian education, and concentrated on the word.
“Biasa means normal.”
“Does kebiasaan then mean normalcy?”
“Or does the word mean ‘usual’ as in ‘Jadi satu kebiasaan’, which would mean ‘become routine’?”
“You sure about that?”
“Oh… I don’t know. Really, I don’t.”
“Just curious JC. What did you notch for your Malay language paper?”
“Now, now. Let’s not exhume any dark memories here.”
Like heads on a totem pole having a conversation, a panel discussion took place in my mind, and it led me down a path of self discovery. This was what I unearthed. My Malay is beyond hope.
NORMALCY. In my world, this has become a bit of an estranged word, banished like a leper to its own colony.
Of late, my life has been lived so intently, so intensely, that I now actually long for the opposite. So long it has been since I’ve experienced peace within. Enjoyed any form of normalcy or free abandon. These days, when I’m at rest, I no longer feel restful. But restless. This anxiousness in me that refuses to cease—it is of the sort that builds in the stillness, intensifying as time drains away.
There is a lot to be desired in the new career path I’m on. But a lot of what’s bad is invisible to the naked eye, blanketed by its sheen. So don’t wish for it too hastily. In the life I’ve chosen, I’m no longer subjected to Monday Blues, but I’ve lost one of life’s simple and most fulfilling pleasures… a reason to Thank God It’s Friday. Sure, I do arrive at new milestones, a cause for celebration. But before any corks can be popped, and sips taken, this voice within never fails to remind me, “You’re not there yet. Not even close.”
My Friday may one day come, many years from the last eighty I’ve missed. This hope, this Utopia I’ve envisioned for myself… it is all I have to hold on to.
For now, all I can do is reminisce the days before this innocence was lost. Back when the burden of destiny was left to fate. When happiness was something that happened to me, instead of an active pursuit. At a point in time when I could sit at the fringe of the ocean, watch the sea swell and shrink around my feet, and experience bliss.
A life of sentences? Or a life sentence?
Rome was not built in a day. Neither are successful authors.
International Best Selling Author.
I’ve forged and re-forged these words in my mind, allowed them to steer each of my actions. When I committed myself to this dream, I may have been unaware of what I was committing to. I’ve often asked myself this. Have I subjected on myself, the most ruinous ‘sentence’ in my life? A self-imposed fatwa that could well follow me to the grave, or maybe even expedite my journey there.
Where the writing of Fuel was concerned, I did not merely throw words onto the wind. I made a complete emotional investment, enlisted everything I had. Commitment is when you plant your seeds and your feet on the same patch. I had done that. And I’m not sure if it was a mistake.
To hold or to fold
Just the other day, I was reminded of the words to this song, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls… Please stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to.”
With all the turbulence that has entered my life, the question of whether I should stay the course has grown louder in my mind. On one hand, letters are trickling in from readers, telling me how powerful the book is, how it has changed their lives. On another front, there is mounting pressure for me to return to the life I’d left behind. Standing at the centre of the swirling debris, it has become extremely difficult for me to find a way out of the storm. Do I have the strength to weather it? The stomach to turn back? The freedom to ride it? So deep I am in the eye, that I may have lost the ability to differentiate stubbornness from resilience. All I know is this. If I stand too long at a crossroads, I’ll get run over by all sides.
These days, more frequently than before, I catch myself day dreaming of fair weather and wishing for normalcy. I’ve experienced many moments of joy in the last 500 days, but none that I felt I deserved. The strings have cut into my hands, have been stained red, taut in every direction. My grip ungiving, I stand here trapped in the wire, a prisoner in time, detained by the dream I’m trying to attain.