the backstage epiphany

where reality is so subjective it's entirely optional

Monthly Archives: June 2010

Come home again

Come home again, come home
Wherever you may be
Come home again, you sailor man, sailor man
Home again, to the sea

I hear a dream all day
A dream that calls to me
“Come home again, you sailor man, sailor man
Home again, to the sea.”

– I Hear A Dream, Gulliver’s Travels –

Gulliver’s Travels was one of my favorite animated films growing up. I sang along to the soundtrack as best as my four-year-old mind would allow me to, laughed at the blubbering little Lilliputians, and cried at the end when Gulliver left Lilliput to the strains of I Hear A Dream, a song which has remained to this day one of my favorites from any soundtrack.

When I decided to obtain my diver’s license last year, it was purely for the chance to go where a snorkel could never take me, to witness all the things I’d heard about and seen on TV in real life, and to satiate my own thirst for adventure. Granted, it wouldn’t induce the same kind of adrenalin that I got from bungee jumping and snowboarding, but the risk of danger and potential death made it just as appealing.

Now, after a year of diving and having experienced one of the best dive destinations on this side of the planet, I realize that it has given me a renewed love for the sea, and a feeling I haven’t had in a long time: peace. Peace in knowing that all the things, big and small, that I’ve been so unsettled about in the past months can be overcome if I just allow myself to believe that they were mostly in my head. Peace in knowing that even if I can’t overcome them in the short term, at some point I will know when and how to move on. Peace in knowing that one day, none of it will matter anymore, either because I’ve gotten past them, or because I’ve simply learned to let go.

Watching that scene now — showing Gulliver looking out at the waves and expressing his longing to return to the sea, to the voyage he had just begun, and to his own world — gives me a vague understanding of why this profound love for the sea exists. It brings about an extraordinary tranquility that allows you, for a few precious moments, to leave the world and everything in your life behind and just revel in its calmness. And for the ones who love it for more than just the whales, Mandarin fish and nudibranchs that dwell beneath its surface, it also makes them feel like they’re being called Home.


My kind of Paradise

When people ask me how my trip to Mataking and Sipadan was, I say, “It was really nice.” And they kind of nod and go, “Ohhh… so nice la?” probably expecting more, having heard of the island that is famous for its marine life. But I don’t say much more beyond the fact that I saw a staggering number of turtles, white-tip sharks (although, unfortunately, no whale sharks) and barracudas, and the water pressure from the showers in the resort was abysmal.

I have been sitting at the computer intermittently for the past 24 hours, wondering how to write about my experience in Sipadan and Mataking over the last five days. And every single time, words fail me because all I can think of are the beautiful, exquisite things I saw as far as 36m below sea level, and also probably because I still feel that swaying in my head that always stays with me after I’ve been on a boat for so many hours a day.

The truth is, there are no words. No words to describe how completely, unbelievably beautiful the island, the ocean, and the life that exists quietly beneath it are. No words to explain why being there for five days has managed to make me think that I could drop everything in my life right now and just be a divemaster for maybe a year or so. No words to express how every time I stood on the shore and looked out at the endless sea and listened to the waves that were sometimes gentle and sometimes pounding, I was so profoundly moved by it that I could have stood there forever.

The thing about Sipadan is that it’s just one of those places that one really must see for themselves to believe and understand its allure. I suppose the easiest way to put it is that for most divers, this really is their Mecca. On this side of the world, anyway.

Off to Sipadan!

It’s the one place I’ve been dying to go to ever since I got certified last year, and even more so after I got my advanced license two months ago. This time I’m going armed with my camera (as in, I will actually use it as opposed to let it sit in my suitcase), SPF 130 sunscreen to preserve my skin color as much as possible for the filming and a new photoshoot I’ll be doing in July, and my own Auntie Mei to ensure I’m not saddled with morally-questionable roommates again.

As my flight is at 7:20AM tomorrow and I have to take the 4:30AM (yes, you read that right) bus from KL Sentral to LCCT (making it my very first time flying AirAsia — and you read that right too), I will do my auf wiedersehens now.

I’ll be home on Saturday. Don’t miss me too much! À bientôt!

One year later, still learning

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” – Oprah Winfrey

I’ve spent most of my life contemplating the credibility of  coincidence. I never really believed that, left entirely to chance, things just fell together, because Everything is a consequence of Something. And ever since I moved back to this country, I’ve believed in it even less when I realized that Mary knew Jane and Harry dated Sally and Thelma was in the same beauty pageant as Louise, because anyone who lives in Kuala Lumpur knows that in a city as tiny as this one, all the social circles are bound to run in together on one another.

So when I spotted him walking by at Starbucks in Bangsar Telawi last April, and realized that he seemed somewhat familiar, I passed him off as just someone I may have seen around the night scenes. But when he walked past again in the opposite direction and actually deviated off his path to speak to me, I realized that we had gone to the same elementary school together, and had actually shared a classroom for a full year, although we never said more than two words to each other.

After that encounter, I thought that if there were ever to be a coincidence in my life, that may have been it. For who would have thought that I would run into someone I had only never known by name and sight and hadn’t seen or spoken to in thirteen years, at Starbucks, of all places, and actually have some smidgen of a memory of him? Who would have thought that, one year later, I would know him far better than I had ever thought or cared to know fourteen years ago?

As I sit and contemplate the last 365 days I have spent with this man, it amazes me how differently my life has turned out from what I thought it would be when I moved back here two years ago. It amazes me that I have actually spent 365 days getting used to allowing someone else in my life, adapting to his ways, his lifestyle, his world, and actually learning to be in a relationship all over again after spending two and a half years on my own (I say two and a half years because the aberrations that occurred during that period are not worth factoring into my life). Naturally, this can be likened, by my standards, to riding a unicycle: potentially fatal at first, and then slowly becoming just a little wobbly.

I once read somewhere that the first year of a relationship is spent getting to know each other, stumbling upon all their little flaws and idiosyncrasies, identifying and ironing out all the issues that are certain to abound as a result of old baggage or just individual neuroses, and then deciding if they would still like to continue being in each other’s presence. Over the past year, I’ve had to remember that my world doesn’t revolve around myself anymore because I had someone to take care of now, let go of the insecurities and bitterness that have plagued me for so many years, lower my defenses and open up to someone as fully as I dared, and bulldoze all the Julians, Mahs, Howards, Carls and Gregs of the world out of my system. I’ve come out of it a little shaken, a little high-strung, but knowing that as much trouble as I’ve had with my own issues, it can’t just be about me anymore, and I can’t take any part of this relationship for granted because it’s not always going to be there.

I’m sorry for all the troubles we’ve had, for all the fights — and oh, how we did fight — for all the little things I couldn’t let go of. Your patience may be waning, but I’m thankful for it nonetheless, and thankful that you’re still here after all the difficulty I’ve had in sorting out my issues to make things better, and in the end, make you happier. So now, as we move into our second year, I may say that what we have can’t (yet) be set in stone, but it doesn’t mean that I love you any less or any differently; it just means that I will be grateful for every new day that I can add to our first 365.

Happy 1 Year baby!

– edit –

June 10, 2010: This is, I’m assuming, his response, which I only found hidden away in my bag two days later:

It just so happened

I’ve never been one for video games; my capabilities have only ever extended as far as Super Mario World and Mario Kart. So when I heard that a film called Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was slated for release in May, the only thing that sparked my interest in it was Jake Gyllenhaal. My expectations sank even more when I learned that it was based on a video game. Nevertheless, I went ahead and watched it anyway, thinking that if nothing else, Jake Gyllenhaal is still a good actor, and if Jerry Bruckheimer could turn the Pirates of the Caribbean ride into a successful full-length film, then maybe Prince of Persia would have the same luck.

I will say no more about the film except the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal was hot beyond belief, and Gemma Arterton made me want to claw her eyes out.

I didn’t give any more thought to the film until earlier this afternoon, when Eza mentioned that the film made her think about how far, given the chance, she would turn back time in order to change certain aspects of her life. That, in turn, got me thinking about how far back in time I would go to make my life better — or at least different — from what it is today, culminating in an alarming number of options:

1. Going back to my high school years, when I allowed myself to be put into Sri Inai, which resulted in a disastrous first relationship and pretending now that I don’t remember anyone from there. Had I the chance — and the sense — I would have insisted that my parents follow their initial plan to put me in the International School of Kuala Lumpur so that I could graduate and immediately return to the U.S. to begin college as a freshman, instead of having to spend a year and a half in INTI College and landing myself in yet another  relationship I’ve regretted every day for the past 6 years.

2. Going back to 2006, when I was in my final year at the University at Buffalo and trying to decide what to do with myself once I graduated. I would somehow find a way to get a job that would get me the H1 visa, or maybe even make use of my LSAT score to get into law school, so that I could stay on there and not be left with no choice but to come back here.

3. Going back to 2008, when I was in one of the deepest emotional ruts of my life and desperately trying to find a way out. When I was so blindly and mindlessly in love with someone who cared nothing for anyone but himself that I allowed my life to revolve around him. When I sat at D’Haven and bawled my eyes out over glass after glass of gin and tonic, wondering how I had let everything get so far out of control and why I couldn’t just let it all go.

4. Going back to last September, when I had the chance to eliminate all possibilities of ever seeing, knowing or hearing what I didn’t want to. When all I needed to do was to flip through The Star newspaper silently and not invite any said possibility, which has since led my imagination, my fears, and all my old insecurities to spiral so far out of control that I am now seeking professional help to stamp them out of my system.

Thinking about all these missed opportunities, missed chances, I also realize that if none of these things had ever happened, I would not be where I am now, in circumstances that I can’t complain about (too often). And as much as we wish for things to be different, I suppose they must all have happened for a reason, whether or not it is a reason worth suffering for, and turning back time would have only gone against everything that was supposed to happen to lead us to wherever it is we are now.

One word, too many meanings

To love or be in love?

Now that is the question. It is a question I have never stopped asking, from the time I was old enough to realize there was a difference between the two expressions.

Over the past 11 years, I have had conversations with several members of the opposite end of the chromosomal spectrum that have gone along one of several veins (in chronological order, based on my age and the level at which my understanding of the expressions was):

Him: I love you.
Me: Really? How do you know?
Him: (mild profanity in native tongue) I don’t know; I just do!

Him: I love you.
Me: Really? In what way?
Him: (pause) Well… that way, I guess.

Him: I love you.
Me: You love me or you’re in love with me?
Him: Ahhh…. it’s the same thing!

Him: I’m in love with you.
Why? You barely know me.
Him: (silence)

It’s an issue I’ve always broached from time to time with the men in my life because (a) men seem to feel things like love differently, (b) men can sometimes be remarkably like women when it comes to feeling things like love, and (c) men so rarely think about things like love that every once in a while it’s good to get the wheels up there going, a realization I had after my most recent attempt to ask this question (“I can’t think about things like that, baby! Go do your research on someone else!”). The more coherent — though questionable — response I managed to coax out a little while later was: “I guess if you’re in love with someone it means you feel more for them. When things start to go bad then it becomes just love.”

Aside from giving my relationship the shelf life of a dairy product (“When things start to go bad”), this statement also gave me the chills. Is that really all it comes down to? I wondered. Is that the easiest way for me to know when he’s in love with me and when he loves me? And then the even more terrifying question wormed its way into my head: When he says he loves me now, which one does he really mean? Coming from someone whose philosophy on love seems to be as simple as “I love you, you love me, so let’s just get on with it,” I had to wonder if there was more behind his breakdown of the expressions.

There is no doubt that most relationships start off with both parties unable to get enough of each other; the ‘honeymoon phase’, its tacky name is. But if after a year, two years, or even five years, they still feel exactly the same way about each other, is that just a prolonged honeymoon phase (also possibly known as denial) or an extraordinary kind of passion that only a fortunate few get to experience? And if the passion or honeymoon phase wears off, does that mean they don’t feel the same way anymore and the shelf life is suddenly diminished, or have they just settled into a comfortable arrangement where, as long as each makes sure the other doesn’t die in their sleep and the sex is still decent, they’re happy enough to just love each other?

I somehow believe that it is possible to love someone and be in love at the same time. But if there are others who believe that one has to overrule the other, then where is the relationship headed? It seems that in this day and age where the partners are taken on as easily as florists and paperboys, the simple act of love is both too much and yet not enough anymore. And I am still no closer to getting the answer I’ve searched so long for.

So it is a question I will never stop asking.