If only life were as simple as pie

Sometimes I wonder about life and where things might be now if I’d chosen a different direction.

The other day I thought about how I lived on a dead-end road; I wondered if it also paralleled my current career and relationships.

Right now the world is in such a volatile place and things can change on a dime. That however is the thing about hope – the belief that things will be able to change.

We try and fix things so that only the good remains and the bad doesn’t but we don’t often get to choose.

I don’t know where I’m going; but I sure hope it’ll be fun getting there.

Behold, I have returned in 2018

It’s been years since I’ve updated this website but that hopefully will change.

Have been busy juggling multiple gigs, including a fairly long stint with Stuff Singapore. Still a columnist though I piss fewer people off these days – maybe old age has made me mellow, who knows.

Now that I’ve got a lot more free time I hope to spend time working on my own stuff for once.

Since this is my first year in my 40s, might as well make the start of the decade count.

Hopefully I get around to updating this site at least once a week. The road is paved with good intentions yada yada pancake but I’m gonna try and keep this resolution. As well as my 10-year-old one of losing another 10kg haha haha haha.

Wish me luck!

Hello, it’s me

It’s been a terribly long time since I posted here. A lot has changed and mostly for the better.
Career-wise, I’m now a subeditor with The Malay Mail Online, who’s been nice enough to give me a column. Racked up a few new bylines including a short stint as Zafigo’s editor and a piece in Time Out for it’s Women’s Day special. I’m also a tech correspondent for Stuff.tv Malaysia.
On the personal front, I broke up with the boyfriend and got a dog (pictured).

Life is up when it’s up, down when it’s down. I’m still a mostly broke, talent-less nobody who occasionally distracts a few people on social media. Yeah, that bit hasn’t changed from 2013.

What’s next in 2016? Well, this is the year I work on my book. Not sure how that is going to go and I have no plans apart from writing it, which I will start in April as part of Camp NaNoWriMo.

Had a bit of a health scare last year so I’m, as Fergie said, working on my fitness. Which in my case means eating one cookie instead of five.

Was in a bit of a funk over the last few months, writing becoming a struggle and a lot of imposter syndrome to deal with. I look at a lot of my peers who are giving to the world and I feel as though I should at least make some effort towards contributing something more than waste and carbon dioxide.

I’m still figuring out how to do that. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just try and give a damn.

On being called ‘white/capitalist/a Malay hater’

Sometimes I hate the Internet. I’m not special enough for people to throw money and free stuff at me but am special enough for people to hate me enough to plaster my name all over the Internet.

Like, yo, I’m not really sure how to react to being dismissed as someone who is too “white western liberal capitalist” to bother with.

Or being accused of being a racist Malay-hater.

Look, y’all. I never said there was no hope for the Malay race. I said there was no hope for it SO LONG AS Y’ALL KEEP ELECTING SHITTY LEADERS. Have you never asked yourself why Malay politicians are so rich while too many Malays are still poor (Hello Felda)? And yet, some assholes keep going around blaming the Chinese for the Malays being poor.

Rich Malays claiming there are poor Malays because = Chinese.

That shit ain’t cool.

Back to the whole “Erna is a capitalist thing”.

So not owning a car because I advocate for public transport, and not owning a house or other big-ticket material trappings, being vehemently anti-libertarianism and believing that the free market is flawed, and that a market without any form of regulation is dangerous…makes me a capitalist?

I must be really confused about capitalism, then.

I admit, I  do not feel very attached to my race’s customs or traditions because, you see, both my parents were different races and were not overly preoccupied with racial identity.

Then why do I ‘get mad’ (apparently) when people mistake me for a Malay?

Because being mistaken for a Malay in Malaysia carries with it a ton of baggage.

Perhaps it is the communal mindset, perhaps it’s just the way it is but being a ‘Malay’ means having to constantly put up with criticism from even total strangers for not being ‘Islamic enough’ or not ‘Malay enough’.

This is something I can’t get used to in West Malaysia, and despite how much I try, I can’t get over it.

I will be honest and say being mistaken for a Malay, has been a detriment 3 times out of 4. It’s cramped my style, yo, because I don’t exactly lead the kind of lifestyle condoned by the Great Guardians of Malay Propriety.

And to be honest, I feel really sorry for Malays who have to put up with so much shit from total strangers (of their own race) who feel it is their ‘responsibility’ to tell them how they should dress, behave or pray.

The guy I used to spend most of my time with (platonically) was Chinese and man, did we get a lot of shit hanging out together because I was perceived as ‘Malay’. But that was then, and things are a little less stupid now.

Is it truly ‘Western’ or ‘white’ of me to believe in human rights, to believe that while culture, tradition and identity matter, they must never come before human rights?

Gee, shucks, then I’m a right redneck then.

They have to be hungry

(This post is for Suanie, one of my favourite people ever, who told me to update my dying blog already)

A friend lost a colleague…who quit after just 3 days.

The job was ‘too hard’, said the now ex-colleague.

You would think the job entailed hard labour, depressing conditions and the like.

The thing is, the job wasn’t all that hard for what the person was getting. I know people with a similar job that get paid less than what he was making.

It was a desk job that required skills at organising and fostering community. No, it is not an easy job especially if you’re new at it.

But to quit after 3 days? Really?

I keep hearing stories like this. People not showing up for interviews. New hires walking out right after lunch.

I think they were probably just not ‘hungry’ enough.

Here’s the deal: if you’re not hungry enough for something, you don’t really want it.

And hunger is also something you can see. It is not the same as enthusiasm. Fake enthusiasm masks lack of hunger. Real hunger doesn’t necessarily show itself overtly and some people just like to play it cool, you know.

Sometimes you have to ask yourself, too. Are you hungry for this (your job/your relationship/your project)? Does it keep you up at night? Do you think about it often? Dream about it? Does it make you feel? Do your friends have to tell you to shut up about it?

If none of what I said rings true with you, then you’re just not hungry.

Though I do think some kids these days are spoiled by never having to learn what it meant to really be hungry.  As in ‘it’s World War II and we have to dig up the tapioca or we’ll starve’ hungry.

Too many fresh grads come into the working world expecting fat paycheques for very little work.

Sorry, kiddos. The world doesn’t work that way. Unless you’re in  banking or finance, entry-level salaries in most fields are a pittance. Expect the first few years of your working life to be about barely surviving on a pittance.

Suck it up. Life is hard, unfair and often a crapshoot. Nobody owes you a living; you have to make one with hard work.

And before you throw in the towel at the new job, give it at least a month. Ask for help. Be willing to meet the challenge.

But if your boss puts the moves on you or your job involves things you didn’t sign up for like forging signatures and covering up for cheating colleagues, say Hasta La Vista post-haste. Life is too short to waste it on assholes.


Things I learned by 35

Another birthday, another milestone. Some women get a little sad about reaching this age and not being married/having kids yet. And I confess I did get a little bit mopey about it…last month.

But the day’s arrived and funny enough, I just feel really calm.

Since it’s my birthday, here are some things I learned that might help some of you out, whatever age you may be.

1. Be yourself. In this world, people are looking for authenticity, people who are ‘real’. But at the same time, sometimes at work, you will need to put on a ‘persona’. Think of it as a suit of armour that you don for the battleship of work. Understand that this persona is not you but a means of coping with work. You may be a bit of a slob and fart joke enthusiast but that might not be what you want to show off at work.

Just remember to take the persona off and let people see the real you.

2. Learn how to make and keep friends. If you just can’t find people to hang out with, ask yourself: Are you doing enough as a friend? I confess to learning this the hard way. Woke up one morning and the only birthday message I got was from my dentist. Boo hoo. The simplest way of getting friends is being a friend. Really.

3. If you are always sick and having to take medical leave at work, your body is telling you quite plainly to quit. Either your job is too taxing on you physically or you are really, really unhappy. No job is worth the physical toll.

4. If you ever have to choose between keeping your health or your job, get rid of the job.

5. It’s not always about you. Remember the universe does not revolve around you and your misery. Sometimes if things are getting you down, maybe you just need to find something bigger than yourself. A cause. A project. A pet, even.

6. Life is too short for excuses. If you really want something, go all the way. Don’t just talk about things: make them happen. It is OK to clean the house every week instead of every day if it means you will have time to work on that novel/play/song/podcast.

Think about the legacy you will leave behind. Do you really want it to be “the chick who obsessively swept her floor everyday” rather than “the chick who wrote that really good book?”

7. If you’re suicidal and feel like there is no reason for you to go on living…find help. It’s as easy as going to HKL, going to the GP and telling them that’s how you feel. You’ll be referred to a psychiatrist…but the waiting list might be as long as 2 weeks. But until then, persevere. As a survivor of depression and someone who’s had many friends clinically depressed/suicidal, I know it can be hard. But when you can no longer help yourself, accept that you need help. It is there for you if you just reach out for it.

8. Everyone has their own cup of sorrow – big or small, it still brings them pain. So be kind, be compassionate and try to find the best in people. Though it is perfectly fine to ignore people being utter and total wankers.

9. Find something you’re good at. Find something you love doing. If they’re the same thing, then you’re lucky. If they’re not, use the first to support the other.

10. Sometimes, it is just nice to treat yourself to a solo meal at a place you really like. If you can’t enjoy your own company, why expect other people to? Being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. Treasure your solitude and your own companionship.

Yes, not exactly world-changing wisdom. But the best I can think of right now.

But if I had to sum them all up…Life is too short for regrets. Live so you will regret nothing. And love.



I only write, because you read

Gratitude Dime
Gratitude Dime (Photo credit: InaFrenzy)

Dear all,

I’m frankly overwhelmed by the response to “We are all pendatang, Dr M”.

Thank you for sharing it, the feedback and kind words.

It gives me hope to know that many people share my sentiments. Like how it is a great injustice that many who deserve citizenships are denied them while the powers that be give them away in exchange for votes.

My TMI column is over 2 years old now. It was a secret childhood dream of mine to have my very own column in a national paper someday. So that sort of came true.

It’s all Amir Muhammad’s fault for me wanting to grow up and write columns like his NST ones. Or maybe I’ll blame A.Asohan for my wanting to write about tech as well as he did. Thanks to him and Chong See Ming, I had my first byline in The Star’s In.Tech.

I just need to tell you that if it wasn’t for your support, I probably would have given up and, who knows, tried to make a go at IT again.

While we may not always agree on things/issues, I’m always glad for feedback, criticism when it is warranted and honest engagement about the things we all care about.

Like education, human rights, politics and children running around unattended in restaurants.

I’m also glad for social media because it lets me engage with the people I write for even if the occasional troll shows up for the party.

But I have one caveat: I will write about the things that I think warrant writing about. I don’t write to make you love me or earn your praise – even if flattery can be nice, I won’t deny.

And sometimes I’ll say things that have been said before (like this column).

That’s because, as my friend Calvin says, some things bear repeating.

I repeat again, I am so grateful to you for still reading my column even when I occasionally (or mostly, who knows) suck.

Here’s to a better Malaysia. For all of us.





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Because someone gave me a chance

Nobody “makes it on their own”. That is a lie.

When a business succeeds, it owes the success to its backers as well as its customers.

Writers are no different.

If my then-editor at Malaysiakini didn’t let me write the impassioned rant that became “Why is your Allah not my Allah?” I wouldn’t have gotten the exposure I did. That exposure opened a lot of doors, one of which led to my current workplace.

I wouldn’t even be at my current workplace if my current boss hadn’t decided, on the basis of a few impassioned op-eds and my tech background, to ask me to meet up for a chat.

There’s a story I haven’t told many people: When my current boss rang me up, I was probably at the lowest point of my career. I was broke. Jobless. And pretty much convinced I was unemployable and washed up. (Those jobless weeks pretty much ruined my credit but that’s another story altogether)

I’d made four back-to-back attempts at a career change and they were disastrous. Two PR gigs, subediting alternative news and heading a doomed local news website. I think I did my best but ultimately, my best just wasn’t good enough.

After finding out I wouldn’t be confirmed at the last gig (despite being there for nearly 11 months), I went to KLCC and blubbered into a cup of New Zealand’s Natural ice cream.

The next few weeks, I just sat around in my pyjamas writing ghost stories trying to jump start a freelancing career…which wasn’t working out all too well. I had precious few leads and very little confidence left.

And then a phone call changed everything.

So I’m grateful. Grateful for great bosses and colleagues. Grateful for an arrangement that makes me happy. When things were at their worst, when I thought there was no hope, things turned around.

Thinking back, at every point of my career, someone had to take a chance on me.

I’m just glad someone did.

Resolution Numero Uno: Learning to blog again

So my first resolution is to start blogging again. The Procrastination Monster has however kept me from actually starting until, oh, today.

In other news, have also started up another blog at VerySalah.com.

I have enough trouble keeping one blog updated and I go start another one. Brilliant!

Am also supposed to start teaching at OUM again but there is one small problem: it’s not entirely sure what or who I’ll be teaching. The course I’d been prepping for seems to be entirely different from the course I’ve been assigned. Oh, boy.

I’ve been a subeditor exactly one year. Am glad to say I now suck 10 per cent less at it. My column at The Malaysian Insider is now nearly 2 years old, TMI will be five years old next month…coincidentally the month when I turn a Grand Old 35.

Besides blogging again, have also the goals to lose the 10kg I should have lost last year, pick up a new language and finish writing a novel that isn’t for NaNoWriMo.

Those resolutions sound suspiciously like the ones I had last year. Well, anyway, 2012 was a mixed bag but I’m grateful that I start the new year with good friends, a good job and the iPad Mini.

Now, go away I have a shit ton of iOS games to catch up on.

The disease of “Someday I’ll”

I think we all know that person or persons who constantly regale you with great deeds done…in progress.

They talk about their great novel.
Or breakthrough album.
Or trip to the Amazon.
Or leaving that job they hate so, so much.

But dreamers and doers are often not the same person.

It’s easy to fantasise but realities like mortgages, children and the like often put paid to lofty ambitions.

It’s all right to consciously bid goodbye to dreams and decide you want to prioritise your family or career.

But some people let their thwarted hopes eat them alive. I watched my mother let her bitterness poison her marriage and household. I grew up believing that marriage was nothing more than a stifling cage and my mother the best example of a clipped bird that in anger turned on its own brood.

Forgive yourself for letting some things pass you by.

Forgive the people who you sacrificed your dreams for, whether they be your spouse, children or parents.

The simple truth is that you must live with your choices and that in the end, you have no one but yourself to answer to. Of course the religionists will bring God into the equation but to thine own self, be true as Shakespeare says.

Either wait for the right time to chase your dreams, or be willing to accomodate a little time in your current schedule for them. If you can’t see yourself doing either then let your dreams go. Maybe with a little sadness or wistfulness but own your choices. Life is too short for regrets.