Category Archives: Growing Up

Growing Up (Part Two)

I studied ballet as a child and continued right up until Grade 5 (I took the Royal Academy of Dance exams) before stopping completely as I entered boarding school. The only Malay girl in the class of twenty or so of Chinese girls, also the roundest, plumpest, cutest of the lot. The one with one of the best moves but lowest stamina.

My asthmatic condition restricted the amount of sports I could do without ending up a wheezing heap. After bugging my mum how I’d love to learn how to dance like the graceful dancers on stage after watching Swan Lake when I was four (I think) and my mum signed me up for lessons not long after that. I can’t remember exactly how I had mummy to sign me up for piano lessons, but I started both around the same time with one hour lessons for each on a weekly basis.

As I advanced into Grade 4,  my grandparents expressed that I should be spending more time on my academics instead of dancing. There aref times I can become exhausted juggling practices, extra-curricular activities at school, and school work. There were comments that leotards were too revealing et cetera et cetera. For some reason I agreed to what was  said by my grandparents and nearly quit but my mum forced me to continue. Grade 5, my ballet teacher told me I was not ready for the exams and should spend another year of training. I insisted on taking it. Received a Distinction (like a First Class) for my final exam. Yeahhh little round dancing blob bouncing across the dancefloor LIKE A BOSS.

My piano teachers have always been strict. I remembered being hit, being shouted at, had the notes scribbled onto my fingers with marker pens, I’ve cried several times during lessons. I admit to being an absolute horror at committing myself to practice, and all I played was exam pieces and songs from other books my teachers teach me. I was never one to explore other manuscripts, until I was in Grade 6 (I took ABRSM for Piano) when my teacher noted that I was skilled enough and should be attempting to play pieces outside the syllabus. Sure, I failed my Grade 6 Theory exams and I can’t play Rimsy-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee to perfection, at least I’m not a robot when I play. I’ve heard many brilliant technical executions but  for the same chords my notes carry more emotion than the show-offs (although sometimes when I play I look stiff and my expression looks stoned depending on the level of difficulty of the piece I’m playing).

My singing have been a disaster throughout the years which I took my practical examinations (it is the vocal section of the exams). Somehow I noticed after I stopped taking exams I began to sight-read better and I could sing almost perfect tune by reading the notes off the manuscript. I can also harmonise well with another person singing.

Around 8 or 9, I was diagnosed with hearing loss in my left year, surprise surprise. I’ve been dancing and playing music for a few years already and it was pretty bad when it was diagnosed. Latest check up last year revealed hearing loss in both ears. I wore a hearing aid (just for my left ear) in secondary two but took it off for after a while. Life without perfect hearing is peaceful. I don’t hear the air-condition and refrigerator humming in the background, I don’t hear the footsteps of my neighbour going up and down the stairs outside the apartment, I don’t hear people spreading half-truths behind my back.

I’m not sure how I get about these days, either people around me are naturally loud or I lip-read all the time.

Growing Up (Part One)

I was a very stylish little child, almost always seen in dresses with matching shoes and accessories my mum picked out for me. Somehow when I began to reach adolescence, I warped into the bespectacled, almost always in oversized clothes, wrong shoes, wrong hair, few friends, a time of ultra-low self esteem. The confidence was there but the self-esteem was just a nano-particle. I spent more time with people who were older than me rather than my peers. Now I’m pretty much okay I guess. Mostly sticking to t-shirts/shirt + jeans + flat/canvas shoes combo. Hair remains unchanged. More friends. That was my growth summed up in a paragraph.

People have always asked if I am of mixed parentage. As far as I am concerned, my mother is Malay and so is my father. When I was a baby I was told I looked like an Arab born whenever I am put on the headscarf because of my fair skin and the red cheeks. I was also told my father sometimes wonder if they took the wrong baby out of the hospital when I was born (because all newborns look alike). My father looks more Indian than Malay. My mum doesn’t have the typical Malay look, but she’s fair-skinned. The younger me also spoke English and Malay with a twang (probably from watching too much Disney cartoons). Combine that with fair skin and curly hair and you’ll get a mat salleh with Malay DNA.

An unforgettable statement by a teacher back in Mantin was “I thought you made your hair like that to make a statement”. Statement my foot laa. Back then I kept wishing I had hair like those models on the shampoo adverts. I suffered peer pressure to permanently straighten my manes. I remember having three or four girls armed with a hair iron each who spent hours trying to straighten my hair. Suddenly all the boys looked at me as I made my routine trip to the dining hall for dinner. I never asked my mum if I could straighten my hair permanently because it was costly (and you’ve to do it once every couple of months to maintain it) and my secondary school fees costed a bomb (close to half of my university tuition fees last year, you do the maths).

My hair is naturally curly and its never been dyed until now. I sported a fringe in secondary four which was a bit of hair flopped over my forehead, straightened, and styled like a china doll. Compliments were received when it overgrew and I let it sweep across my face in a side bang. Then it got annoying when it kept getting into my eye so I gave up on fringes for a while. I’ve tried cutting my own hair which turned out not too bad. People can’t really see the difference if I had been to the salon or not because it looks just the same to others regardless.

I see bokehs without my spectacles or my glasses on. My eyesight is powered by -6.5 and -0.7 right and left respectively as of the most recent check-up. I began with -3.0 in primary 3. I never realised I was short sighted although I’ve been sitting on the floor about 3 metres away from the whiteboard during of my lessons until my mother realised she couldn’t see me waving in a store when I was looking in her direction and I had trouble reading the menu behind food ordering counters. From secondary 1-3 I have been wearing the thick glasses before I switched to Nikon lenses (yes, Nikon lenses for my specs) which manufactures them thinner for the massive power I needed so I don’t end up with heavy, thick lensed viewing tool slipping off my nose, and gradually eased to using contact lenses on a daily basis by the time I was in secondary five (after I broke my spectacles for various reasons for the fifth time in a year). My thick specs was the main reason why I refused to put on braces for my teeth. I had enough dealing with criticisms on my hair + baggy clothes + spectacles combo. I didn’t need another one to annihilate all that’s left of my self-esteem.

Looking back, I think I did a pretty good job resisting all that peer pressure. My handful closest good friends who see me now will tell me I’ve changed from the person they knew back then in terms of physical appearance. Butterfly out of the cocoon.  Some would say I’m still the same. Some who saw me during prom or my prom photos would go “OHMAIGOD”.

In my opinion, I’ve just grown a bit taller, wear more clothes that fits properly, and developed dark shadows under the eye, have better self-esteem and a bigger circle of friends which traverse across a world of interests, industry, age, and experience. Woosta! I’ve survived the past twenty years of my life. Alhamdulillah 🙂