It’s been awhile since I last wrote. I will try and summarize in as little and as much as I can, the same way I’d do if I owed an explanation to a friend.
Days here have been filled with its own sort of presence, making up for the absence which appears in being someplace new. Two months in and I have found once again a new palate in being a student abroad. This place is so different from Malaysia, or America, and there have been numerous confrontations; with the cold, with a change in culture, with how my English is not the English of an English girl, the pause before speech and the wariness of not being fully acquainted with a language I always thought I intuitively knew best.
There have been good moments: finding beauty in old brick buildings and the silence of being in a dusty albeit well-stocked library, having an abundance of time to read and think and cook and write, picking up exercising and drawing again, the rich availability of Halal or vegetarian-friendly food, being surrounded by classmates that love the same thing as I do. I’ve been actively reading and venturing into the art of writing short stories. My stamina has not been this great in a long time.
There have been bad moments: dealing with a less than ideal accommodation and realizing Manchester isn’t the safest of places with its own share of seedy neighborhoods and people, homesickness, the pulsing questions surrounding one’s own identity and originality when displaced from home, comfort, and friends, dealing with ridiculously disorganized administrations and repeatedly poor customer service and a frustratingly condescending old instructor who appears to have more interest in anything aside from the class he’s been hired to teach.
Writing isn’t easy, especially when it feels stringent and measured. The pleasures which I’d often found through spontaneity have been lost, replaced by finding myself in areas where I feel foreign, raw and new. As weird as it sounds, I never had rules whenever I wrote and there was a relaxing sense of liberty to this because I never questioned that voice. Having restrictions and a sudden visible audience has replaced that freedom with a weird sense of naked vulnerability. It feels, to me, like relearning how to love in a new way and through wielding a new body.
I tried feeling better and began introducing more clutter to my room. I added candles, I bought different kinds of tea, I played different kinds of music and made playlists to suit every mood. I wore more makeup and on some days, barely any. Then I started cleaning which took on almost a religious effect in how the physical practice of it was therapeutic. I wanted control through every semblance of my life. Through my body, by practicing clean form whenever I pushed myself through exercise. Through cooking, which vastly improved and surprised even myself. Through writing, by recording my reflections to later investigate and interrogate them further. And I drew deeper and deeper into the night.
The first time I had to deal with negative criticism, I was gutted. It was so bad, so painful, that I called my sister up in tears. I’d always thought myself as tough, if not apathetic, but it hurt more than anything had in a long, long time. Yet it was necessary in the way it brought me face-to-face with several epiphanies that had been skimming through the surface but which I’d always looked past, things about myself which I had refused to confront but which I needed to. It was a good lesson in humility and I won’t divulge too much into the particulars here, but it made me realize how lucky and loved I have been, and how spoiled I can be in taking this privilege lightly. It inspired me to want to be better, which I’ve not felt in a long time. Writing is a process that is extremely self-indulgent in nature and it is easy to get lost in one’s own thoughts and words. I am too long-winded and vain, I think. I am not clever or brave enough, but I want so badly for the good and the real. And how I cringed when I read of Emma Bovary’s delusions in her unlived fantasies and her eventual death which seemed so clumsy and vile in comparison to her grand expectations. It sounded too easily like a life I could mimic. All I’ve wanted is a life of intrigue. Too much that I overlooked the foundations underlying my own comforts.
There is no denying I’ve found a strange creature in myself and in this place. I try to be more dexterous in my actions as I sort out all my wants and my needs, my desires and my affections, to belong and to understand through these given devices.
But I try, anyway.
I try and again, I know that I’ll keep trying. There’s just no other way about it.