I’ve thought a million times before starting to write this. Every time the urge to write arose, I talked myself out of it.
It’s too vulnerable.
No one would care anyway.
What difference does it make if you don’t do it.
But that’s the point. I’m not writing this for anyone else. I’m writing this for me. And perhaps, I’m writing this for the future young, shining hopes of Malaysia who will one day take the same path as me. Learning in a city 10, 539 km away from home, just so you could create a better future for our homeland.
End of Winter, Beginning of Spring 2017
“Let’s try out Bubblewrap this weekend!” I smiled, as I texted to one of my closest friends. I attached a picture of yummy warm waffles, topped with ice cream and chocolate and lots of other stuff. She definitely can’t resist this.
She didn’t read it immediately, but that was okay. I had a lot of coursework to get started on and oh look, the code I was writing in VBA wasn’t working. Great. The end of term was coming (also, May exams) but it looks like the bulk of the work this semester has only started coming in. It didn’t help that although we’re all still working on the current IT coursework, group selection for the next one has already started. Joy.
“Ooh, looks cool! But I have some stuff to do this weekend,” came the reply.
“It’s 2-for-1 this weekend though,” I texted back.
“Hmm, well, Serena* invited us to eat at Dapur* yesterday, but she called me saying that she cancelled it. If not, we could’ve dropped by Bubblewrap before going to Dapur.”
Her text made me stop. I had no knowledge of this. Was it in the group chat? I scrolled up. Hmm, no.
Living in a student hall had took its toll on me last Winter. The lack of human company, sunlight and exam stress somehow triggered something and I’ve been getting anxiety attacks since (more on this later). I was scared and lonely and I’ve started picking up the habit of staying at her place, which she shares with three other common friends of ours, because their company calms me down. It wasn’t something new to us though, I’ve been coming over to her apartment ever since we became friends in our Pre-U* days, back in Malaysia. I loved her company.
Words like ‘Us’ and ‘We’, usually included me.
But last weekend, I was at Serena’s surprise birthday party, and I was just as surprised as Serena herself was. Had I not met Alia* at my university campus, I wouldn’t have even known something was going on that Friday night. I would have packed my bag and be on my way to Bayswater where they lived, and be stuck outside again. During dinner, they realised they had forgotten to add me to the secret group chat and laughed it off. I laughed it off too. But truly, that was the first time I felt alone and small in a group of friends that I truly cared about..
I slowly began to realise that their ‘Us’ and ‘We’ are slowly starting to exclude me.
After 21 years of living, I am well aware that friends have the right to have a life that doesn’t include you. Friends have other friends. Friends don’t have to remember or text or consider you all the time. I accept that.
That doesn’t make it feel less lonely for me…
Every time I try to convince myself I don’t need friends- that reliance on another human being that is not your family is fruitless– a thought comes back haunting, reminding me that my family isn’t here with me. And that somehow, I need friends.
And I’m so tired of thinking: That my presence is an annoyance. That feeling they don’t want me around. Always on edge whenever the jokes get a little too rough and they jokingly tell me to leave but never knowing whether it’s a joke or not. Feeling left out on trips because even though I try and accommodate their need for endless photos, they don’t understand my love for museums.
Some of them do, of course. And I’ve never stopped feeling grateful for the times when they said ‘Hey it’s OK. I’ll go to that palace with you’ or when they let me drag them to the Malaysian Hall for lunch.
But as I write this, I’m beginning to suspect it’s the anxiety talking. Trying to convince me that my friends don’t love me. Or am I wrong, and it’s just my own thoughts? Or, Or was I right all along? Sometimes I think I’m going crazy because the noise inside my head just won’t stop. Won’t stop.
But I don’t need help… right?
Serena & Alia: (Not their rea names) Common friends of me and my close friend
Dapur: Malaysian Restaurant in Soho, near Bubblewrap
Pre-U: Pre-University. We did our A-levels at KYUEM, one of the top preparatory colleges in Malaysia for overseas-bound students.