There is a nightmare I had when I was about seven or eight years old that I still remember very well. I was in an indoor morning market. The market was about to close, and there was a general bustle of things being packed up. I was trying to find my way out – running from stall to stall, looking for an exit. Strangely enough, there was not a single soul in the market, but the lights were going off one by one…and I could hear my mother outside, calling my name the way she usually did. I glimpsed her, in fact, standing by a bicycle in a red tank top, awash in blinding yellow sun. Yet I couldn’t follow the image, or the voice, I kept zigzagging from one stall to another, imprisoned in an eternal loop of searching.
Nowadays I’ve come to see the dream as a symbol of my fear of being constrained. By and from what, it’s hard to say. As Adele said – I just knew I wanted to get out. At every major phase or commitment in life – school, university, a new city, projects, relationships – despite the countless hours of joy or fulfilment, it’s always come to a point where I feel a noose tightening and I think: God, I need to get out. In school I was desperate to leave the country. When I was finally in the UK, an ideal I’d been nurturing for years, I felt on many occasions tired and trapped. It was as if I wasn’t or life wasn’t enough, as if this trajectory was somehow a misfit, like a shoe of the wrong size. Returning to Malaysia for work, I tried steeling myself to the idea of settling down, but before I knew it, I itched to abandon ship again. And voila – here I am now, faffing about in Frankfurt.
It is very unreasonable of me. I have had the most privileged life – free, albeit with some effort or obstacles to overcome (nothing very major in the larger scheme of the world, I assure you), to pursue most of my important choices. Here I sit in a cosy basement flat I’ve made pretty, that I’ve come to fondly call my little cave (think the Little Mermaid). It’s only 5 minutes from a picturesque stream that winds through farmland and woods and looks gorgeous in the sunset. So wonderfully tranquil, just the kind of peace and quiet that I’ve been looking to escape to from the asphyxiating crowds and chaos of KL. It’s too early still, but I imagine at some point I would start feeling walled in by the quiet…
So there I go. Running from one door to another, hoping, with each one I open, that I will find what I seek, while not knowing really what I seek. One can only surmise that I am merely running away from myself. All this melodrama is to say – im probably imprisoned by my mind, my constant coveting, more than anything else.
Laura Brown from The Hours is appealing and repulsive to me in equal measure. I relate to her – I am all too familiar with the conflicting sense of acute failure that comes from, metaphorically speaking, baking a slightly imperfect cake to please a family I didn’t want in a life I didn’t choose. And so I’m slightly jealous that she upped and ran and found what she sought – ‘chose life’, as she called it. Yet she repels me so much because I fear becoming like her. Wanting to escape like that is ultimately selfish – it is to absolve yourself from responsibility to the people closest to you.