I always wondered what it takes to really know a person. Is it their looks? From a single conversation? Or from going through tough times together with them? What I know for sure is that you shouldn’t be defined by your history. I would never agree to that, simply because if I did – I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Growing up, I was a little slow. Literally. My parents started getting worried as I didn’t start speaking till much later in life. Interestingly enough, I so vividly remember waiting in my baby cot for my mum and dad to wake up. Once they did, I remembered wondering why they were making weird noises when they spoke to me. There were other peculiarities I had as a child. Seeing water drip from a tap amused (and fascinated!) me. Attempting to catch a buzzing flying creature (AKA a fly) was my daily ritual on my baby walker. So it begins, my life as a perpetual ‘thinker’. No speaking, just thinking, day dreaming and acting on wherever my imagination took me.
My imagination in some ways always got the better of me. Never really present, my mum figured out that the only way to get me to pay attention was to hold my face tightly cupped in her hands (she does it to this very day lol). It was my imagination that gave me such an amazing childhood though. I would play in the background amongst the plants (my battalion!), the birds and the bees. Or pretend to be a doctor with my little cousin (that ‘career’ took a back seat when I accidentally poked her with a needle however *ouch*). There was even a time when I convinced myself I was a zoologist of sorts – stealing some kitchen eggs and hiding them around my bedroom, on beds of shredded paper. I waited patiently for the eggs to hatch. Regrettably, I had no chicks and my experiment concluded with my sister screaming bloody murder when she discovered my (by then, SMELLY rotten) eggs’.
To add to that crazy imagination – I was blessed enough to be living in the island of Borneo, in a small little oil and gas town called Miri. I grew up right next to lushious jungles, with the beach just a stones throw away. It was common to find snakes slithering in our gardens. Cleaning the home was also always a sandy affair. Notably, that specific moment in my life made for very interesting adventures. It was common for me to play all evening (till dusk!) with my neighbours. We would jump into the hidden ponds, cycle to the most random places. I even remember ploughing through 6ft tall bushes only to enter a magical plot of land that was just filled with sandstone, plenty of white pebbles, and trailing waters that glistened in the sun. Play time meant getting lost and finding new places. Starting clean, but ending dirty. Nature was, and still is my heaven on earth.
Sure, I was no ‘wild child’ by normal standards. I was wild in an animalistic, nature-loving manner. Certainly a handful and crazy in my own ways. This international women’s day I really want to pay tribute and thank all the women in my life who patiently waited for me to blossom. These were the ones that saw me through my entire journey. Groomed me, prayed for me, encouraged me and oh well – the list goes on really. Here are the amazing women:
My Mum – Incredibly smart and an astute businessperson. She is never one to be limited by her circumstances – put a barricade in front of her and she will figure out how to get over or around it. An inspiring teacher by background but a learner for life. She lives and breathes lifelong learning. Thank you for believing I was Einstein (in spite of my being ranked close to last in class!). It made me soar.
My Sister – to her, I was (or am!) that telltale, diary-reading brat. Little does she know, I look up to her in so many ways. Her confidence, her fashion sense, her leadership skills! She was and will always be my go-to, my confidant and my safe place. Sure we fight every now and then, but never with an intention to hurt each other. I know I can count on her for hard honest truths! Missing those random calls we have.
My Aunt – a boisterous fun-loving figure in my life, her laughter is contagious and her joy never fails to brighten the room. She inspires me with her steadfast faith in God and her big love for children. She tells the best stories and her OCD is also god-sent for when you need a helping hand with house chores or when you need house organisation tips!
My Cousin – (the one I poked with the needle! – thanks for not crying and screaming when it happened!) its inspiring to see her step out of her comfort zone, just conquering her dreams one step at a time! I wish I was half as daring (or as convincing…inside joke, but trust me, she is convincing) as her!
My Nanny – the St John’s Island beauty. Independent, energetic and with the best idioms (“tit for tat, butter for fat!” she says). Someone you can count on if you ever needed a helping hand. Someone with a mind of her own, she is her own person. Cucu’s (grandchildren, colloquially) took after her, so you can imagine what a handful we are!
My Ah Mah – my favourite nonagenarian. She never received formal education. Yet, she beats me in chess (ironically, the game I taught her!) and does math like a calculator! Ever the gentle loving person, she is the only person who I can have a conversation in Hokkien with (no one other person understands my Hokkien!). She also gives the best love advise!
Going back to what I said earlier – I do not and did not let history define me. My cognitive abilities caught up. The world taught me to be a smarter woman (sometimes through painful lessons). And if I ever told anyone my background – you can be rest assured, a ‘slow’, ‘quiet’ or ‘peculiar’ child wouldn’t even be what they thought I was. Taking cue from what I have managed to achieve in life today, I am blessed beyond measure and if anyone told me 20-odd years ago where I would be today, I would have called them a liar. And — No I am no multimillion success. Nor am I ‘living the life’. I am blessed not by earthly materialistic measures. I am blessed with love, happiness and with amazing people in my life. These women undoubtedly played a part in making me who I am today and I owe them my success!
To other women, keep playing (yes, have fun with what you are doing. You only have one life to live!) and just live each day to the fullest. Keep the curiosity alive, keep the daredevil in you thriving – and above all, keep the faith alive. Believe that you will achieve great things and you will. Regardless of where you are today, and regardless of who you were in the past.
Happy International Women’s Day!