The Little Things

The little things

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I like –
The way you part your hair,
The way your mouth curls into a smile,
The way you sit while you enjoy your food,
The sound of your laughter,
The veins on your forehead,
The scar on your left index finger.

I like it when –
You cut your food into tiny pieces before you offer me,
You save my favourite part of fried chicken,
You wave at me when you see me,
You walk me to my car before we part,
You can’t stop talking when I’m hanging up the phone.

I love to –
Hear you tell me about your day no matter how menial,
Receive your text first thing in the morning,
Pick up your call at 3am cause you can’t sleep,
Keep you company even when you’re moody.

Maybe
Actually
I’m in love with you
Cause love is in the little things.

#ajanxpoem

5 Love Languages

5 LOVE LANGUAGES
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A book by Gary Chapman.

Gary Chapman gathered data from his experience as a marriage councellor to write this book. Humans generally give love and expect to receive love in 5 ways:

1. WORDS OF AFFIRMATION. They love verbally. They say “I love you”. They compliment you when you do well. They call you to tell you they miss you. Your tone of voice affects their feelings.

2. ACT OF SERVICES. They don’t mind accompanying you shopping. They settle your chores when you don’t have time. They make you drinks when you stay up at night. They expect your help when they ask for it.

3. PHYSICAL TOUCH. It is literally that. Holding hands, hugs, and pats on the shoulder are important for them. They do that to you when they love you, as well.

4. QUALITY TIME. Late night conversations, focused attention and spending time on your hobbies are their cup of tea. Some don’t like to talk, but like to spend time together, even though the two of you are busy with work, just feeling your presence.

5. GIVING GIFTS. They spend money on you. They remember special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays. They bring you a little something often.

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Why is it important to learn this?

1. TO KNOW YOURSELF. Only after you are aware of your own language, you can ask how you’d like to be loved by your loved ones.

If you feel hurt every time your husband say something which he wasn’t aware of, you can say, “Honey, I’m hurt when you say it that way, can we resolve this?”

You can ask your friend to bring you a little something from her holiday, because you know it will make you happy. Your friend will know that makes you happy, and continue giving you gifts in the future.

2. TO LEARN SECONDARY LANGUAGE. Once you are aware of your loved ones’ language, teach yourself to ‘speak’ their language. The only way to be loved, is to first, give love.

If your love language is acts of service and your spouse’s words of affirmation, at first it might be so hard for you to say it out loud. It feels so ‘not you’, you feel like a stone is stucked in your throat. But that is the way he/she feel loved, so you start small. Make a point to compliment him/her once a day, for example. You can whisper ‘I love you’ if you’re to shy to say it out loud.

+ When there’s a will, there’s a way. Remember: To feel loved, we must first give love.

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Here’s a personal story. Emak and I are contradictions. Her love language is Acts of Service, mine is Words of Affirmations. She takes care of everyone in my family. That is how she shows love. It’s only when I am in my 30s, I realized how much she feels loved when we do house chores for her. I heard she says often, “Anak Mak, help me clean the drain please”, “I want to wake up with breakfast ready in the kitchen” and I took it very lightly when she says ‘Thank you’ for things I did for her. I didn’t realized it means so much for her.

Now, Emak is a bit blunt. She says things as it us. And more than I want to admit, most times she is right. Growing up, her tone of voice may have affected me in too many occasions. So nowadays, I just have to say, ‘Mak, don’t say it like that” and she’ll quickly realized that she didn’t mean to say it that way.

What I’m saying is, never stop learning to love someone. Love is a continuous work. 32 years and counting, Emak and I are still learning to love each other. If you are two good people in love, trying to find your ways in the relationship, I’m sure you’ll make it.

+ Give love to be loved. All the best.

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Ajan
Searching to learn the 2nd language

#ajanmusing

Untold Stories

He laughed when she told him she needs tall, huge mirror. They went shopping for their first home. She doesn’t wear make up. She doesn’t take selfies. “Why would you need it?” he said.

He laughed because it was unusually funny. She stared at him blankly. She didn’t say anything.

He bought her the mirror, anyway.

And then they got married.

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The scars run across her back. Raging red. She keeps the ointment bottles near the mirror.

She told him the story. He listened silently.

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Sometimes when she sits quietly and stares into space, he wonders what more of her past she keeps from him. But he never pushes. He figures he has a lifetime to learn.

And even if that lifetime might be too short, he decides that he doesn’t mind not knowing.

He loves her, anyway.

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#ajanstorytelling #excerptfromabookihaveyetwritten

He laughed when she told him she needs tall, huge mirror. They went shopping for their first home. She doesn’t wear make up. She doesn’t take selfies. “Why would you need it?” he said.

He laughed because it was unusually funny. She stared at him blankly. She didn’t say anything.

He bought her the mirror, anyway.

And then they got married.

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The scars run across her back. Raging red. She keeps the ointment bottles near the mirror.

They way she flinches at the slightest touch of his finger on her elbow, makes him sad.

She told him the story. He listened silently.

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Sometimes when she sits quietly and stares into space, he wonders what more of her past she keeps from him. But he never pushes. He figures he has a lifetime to learn.

And even if that lifetime might be too short, he decides that he doesn’t mind not knowing.

He loves her, anyway.

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#ajanstorytelling #excerptfromabookihaveyetwritten

3 TIMES A WEEK

I am fat. Save your wheedling. I don’t sugarcoat shit.

I am fat. Save your wheedling. I don’t sugarcoat shit. I am aware that I am fat. In fact, I am borderline obese.

I also go to gymnasium. I try to do that 3 times a week. I don’t lose weight because I eat like a racing horse.

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Why I hit the gym?

1. Focus. I go to there mostly alone. I don’t make small talk. I go in, change, exercise and go out. Usually takes around one hour.

2. Freedom. I go to a gym with a floor dedicated only for ladies. So I can be freeeeeeee. You also look less weird singing Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant on a treadmill than in a recreational park.

3. Weights. I usually train with weights, cardio (treadmill or bike) and then back to weights. I like the equipments. There are mirrors for me to check my form, as well.

I feel that the money I spent for every entry is worth all those. I don’t pay for membership, because I usually go in the morning, which is happy hour. Beats membership cost.

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The question I usually get is “How much weight have you lost?” I don’t lose. Told you I eat like there’s no tomorrow. But I gain these significant benefits, instead.

1. Clothes fit better. Even though you don’t lose weights, you can feel your muscles grow firmer and your body more toned. Clothes are good measure.

2. Better blood sugar control. Exercise regulates insulin better. Less craving for sugary food. So I eat better too. My mood also stabilizes.

3. Better sleep. As someone who have this difficulty, exercise helps alot. I also wake up early and more refreshed on nights when sleep is scarce.

These gains are far better than losing weight. BUT, I don’t condone my eating habits. Yesterday in Toastmasters, someone spoke about eating healthy. I am aware I have to improve on this area.

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I am just saddened every time I hear ladies say things like “I want to be thin so I look prettier” or when taking pictures, “Make me look thinner, please.”

Ladies, you are fat and beautiful and fabulous. No but! Let’s lose weight for health. Cause we are beautiful just the way we are.

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Hit the gym. Eat right. Be proud of habits and disciplines.

Ajan,
A lot to improve.

Priorities

Here is the hard truth: No one is ever busy. People make time for what’s important for them. If someone says, “I have to decline. I am busy,” that person is essentially saying, “You are not my priority.”

It can be sad. It also helps us to realize our value in someone’s life. It also taught me to evaluate the people on my list, people I care about.

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I quit saying “I am busy” many years ago upon learning this. If someone I care about asks for my time and I really can’t make time for him/her, I will reschedule. “How about some other time the day after?”

If I really feel something is not in my priority list, I will simply say, “My planner is full.”

When Abah got sick last year, I turned down many things from people I care about and say, “Family is my priority right now.” It gave me confidence on my life choice. It gained me respect from peers, because of that conviction.

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So next time you ask someone for their time and they can’t make it, but doesn’t offer alternatives, you know where you stand.

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Next time when you get invited or offered a chance and you think of answering “I am busy”, pause and ask yourself, ‘Am I really busy or I am closing myself from opportunities?’

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Know who you are.
Know what you want.
Prioritize.

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Ajan,
Challenging my priorities.

Financial Freedom

“What is your definition of financial freedom?” One day, she asked me.

“When my passive income exceeds my expenses, then I am financially free.”

“No. No. What is YOUR definition of financial freedom?”

I kept quiet. Eyes straight at her. My mind was blank. I really didn’t have any answer.

“You’ve got to have YOUR own definition of financial freedom,” she continued. “You have to have a goal bigger than yourself. And your financial freedom will fuel that goal.”

“Frankly, I have never really thought of that. Can you tell me yours?”

She cleared her throat. “I am financially-free when I can comfortably spend 50% of my income for goals greater than myself.

You know me. I don’t fancy dresses, barely use handbags and I eat what I need. I don’t have much desire for things. But I set a benchmark to increase what I give to society gradually. Not only money, but my time and energy.

In another conversation, I asked, “Kak, how do you manage your income?”

“30% for the past.
30% for now.
30% for the future.”

“What does that mean?”

“30% to manage debts.
30% for me to spend.
30% to save and invest.”

‘Only 30% to spend? Oh my!’ I thought to myself.

“The other 10%?” I asked more.

“You are sharp.” She smiled. I chuckled. “10% for akhirat. That’s for causes in Allah’s name.”

She added, “I have a long way to go to reach that 50% I told you.”

Our conversations always give me something to think. Kak, you have set a very high benchmark. MasyaAllah! Now I am losing sleep, thinking about this.

May Allah grant you your dreams, kak.

Ajan,
Re-evaluating my financial goals.

#ajanstorytelling #deathbydesign #financialplanning #financialgoals #bucketlist

Random Thoughts After Malaysia General Election

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That day at Z-gen Speakers Public Speaking Challenge, there was a boy named G Mahathir. Automatically, he was elected group leader. Naturally, they named their group Pact of Hope. Not before they were asked to change from Pakatan Harapan.

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Nota minda: Tukar kad pengenalan. Tukar tempat mengundi. Boleh bertugas dengan efisyen.

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Kalau korek hidung, lubang hidung warna biru tak?

Hollows

There are hollows in our conversations,
Where there used to be filled with your name,
What are you medications?
When is your next appointment?
How do we handle your treatment?
What do we need for you?
 
There are hollows in my planner,
Where I used to write ‘dialysis’ three times a week,
Or where I crossed over that word, sometimes sister took over,
Where I put reminders of my night shift at hospital, because I am that forgetful,
Where I wrote your appointment with doctors.
 
There are hollows in our home,
Where there used to be your bed, your dressing table and your wheelchair,
Where there were tables and chairs to ease your way in and out,
Where everything is arranged so you were comfortable.
 
There are hollows in our spaces,
The front passenger seat of the car where you used to sit,
The towel rack where we hung yours,
The end of the dining table where you used to sit.
 
The are hollows in my habit,
I used to check on you when I woke up at night,
I used to greet you in the morning with my silly pantuns,
I used to ask what you want for your next meal,
I used to tell you stories that you are probably tired of hearing.
 
But there is no hollow in my heart,
Where the memories of you reside,
Your name imprinted in gold letters,
To remind me the power of du’a from a daughter,
You will forever be the one and only I call ‘Abah’,
May we meet again, I pray, forever happy in jannah.

A (Literal) Photo Shop

The Fujifilm sign outside appeared brand new. But the shop exterior looked old. Not bleak or dreary, but outdated with a homey feeling to it. The kind of shop that the moment you enter, you are greeted by old couples whom you immediately know have been making a living from the very same shop for a long time. So is this one.

I wore red. I felt beautiful. And when the uncle smiled at me, I felt ravishing. The kind of smile that attracted you, not in a flirty way, but charming and full of warmth.

I got my photos taken. It was time for a new one. I have gotten chubby. But more importantly, for some indefinite reasons, I want one of me in red.

When I paid at the counter, I noticed a graduation photo of a young lady with the couple.

“Uncle, is that you?” I asked.
“Yes.”

“Is that your daughter?”
He nodded. Aunty smiled from behind the counter while counting my balance.

“I was handsome. Now, I am old.” He smiled wider.
I smiled back, took my balance from aunty and nodded to them before leaving.

I wanted to tell him “You are old. And still handsome. You have the most charming smile.” I wanted the aunty to acknowledge that when I ask, “Right, aunty?” and proceeded to tell them how beautiful their daughter is and that they must be very proud of her.

But like all short encounters, those words are left unsaid. Those beautiful words resounded in my head, tingling in my ears with a tinge of regret. I hope my smile left a patch of warmth on their hearts, in place of those words that are lost in translation when my mind works slower than my mouth.

Deaths in The Family

How do you face the death of someone you care? I don’t mean after. I mean the before and during. I have seen people taking care of sick people. I have seen people cried when someone dies. I have seen calm people in the same situation, and I wonder, “Are they like me?” I wanted to ask them, “Have you known it before also?” but never did.

Because talking about death is a taboo. Planning for death in details is seen as pathetic. I don’t assume this. I have been scolded. I have witnessed people shushing the speaker also.

I rarely cry when there is death in my family. To most people, death is a beginning of a sad episode of losing someone they love. To me, death is a closure of a numbing episode of overwhelming torture. I hope it wasn’t what the dying people feel. I always pray for that, every single time.

It usually began with a dream. More like a nightmare actually. They don’t stop haunting me after I wake up. And then there is pain that I can’t explain. there is overwhelming sadness that comes out of nowhere. The more I care about that person, the more intense and vivid these feelings.

Sometimes I felt guilty feeling relieved after the death, as if I was selfish. I was supposed to be sad after the lost, I thought. But as I am writing this, I realized it is something beyond my control. It doesn’t have to be said out loud to those losing their loved ones. I can write. I can tell one or two people. To lessen the heavy grip on my shoulder for a bit.

I like to think of it as a  gift I have yet understand. Sometimes when it gets too overwhelming, I will pray for the impossible, “Allah, please don’t let someone die”. I know it will still happen, but I have let it out to someone who loved me most, Allah. He willed this to me, He knows what I should do with this. So my regular prayer has always been and still is

“O Allah, teach me the way out. Show me the silver lining. Keep my faith strong. Aamiin.”

Relationship Breaker

Humans are made of colorful personalities and characters. Some quirks may wobble relationships – romantic relationship, friendship and family bond. But as long as personalities between two people match, give and take would do it.

The key to any good relationship is kindness. I believe kindness can’t coexist with these three traits which I call relationship breaker. A kind person is able to minimize these traits in the character, if not losing them at all. To err is human. But to have these traits embed in one’s character they become a habit, is dangerous and toxic.

Blaming

There is a type of person who when confronted, will quickly shift the blame to someone else in the team, quickly getting himself out of the hot spot. It is the easiest way, but it is the wrong way. Sometimes referring to what somebody else did in the past – “I am not the only one who did this. So and so did this too.” This does not solve problem, and in fact, bringing out forgotten corpse into the existing problem.

The other type, which I feel worse than the first type, is someone who puts blame on someone out of nowhere. They feel the need of pointing out one’s mistake which is not needed to be discussed, because to them everyone must do or be a certain way in a team. I feel even if one makes a mistake, it is best to talk to each other first before pointing it out to other teammates.

Judgmental

Quick to jump to conclusions based on their personal assumptions. Some of them think they are exercising their observation skills and are happy to share their inferences with their circle, when in fact, it is false assumption. These judgments are then used as a base to work in a team, creating an unhealthy work environment.

Giving adjectives to one’s behavior based on just a few occasions – labeling. When someone is missing from a few occasions, he is labeled ‘absent’. When someone did not complete her tasks for a couple of times, she is labeled ‘irresponsible’. When someone did not return calls, he is labeled ‘ignorant’. The curse of an adjective is it is remembered. When you tell that a person is ‘beautiful’, people remember the fact that she is beautiful without the details about her hair, her smile or the way she talks. The same goes to when you tell a person is ‘irresponsible’, people remembers exactly that, not the few occasions which the person made the mistakes. We want to remember good things about people, so give adjectives only to their best traits.

Cynic

cyn·i·cal
ˈsinək(ə)l/

adjective

1.

believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.
“her cynical attitude”

doubtful as to whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile.
“most residents are cynical about efforts to clean mobsters out of their city”

contemptuous; mocking.
“he gave a cynical laugh”

2.

concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted or appropriate standards in order to achieve them.
“a cynical manipulation of public opinion”

Cynics think that everyone has a motivation behind everything they do. ‘This person is nice to me because he needs me to do such and such for him.’ ‘That person is getting close to her because he wants to woo her.’ I am a believer of the saying, ‘What Susie says of Sally, says more of Susie, than of Sally’. It is because a cynic always has a motive behind things they do, they think that everybody else must have, too. Be aware, but not suspicious. Be kind, nice and open to everyone, but don’t be naïve. Give-and-take does not equal reciprocate.

cynical-conan-obrien

I am writing this as a reminder for myself and with a heart full of wish that people can be more frank and ask more at the same time. To grow requires acknowledging these characters without entertaining them, giving power to them. Focus on the best people in the team – who criticize for your growth and encourage your dreams unconditionally.

Love Languages

“Do I annoy you?”
“No, you don’t.”

“Do my stories bore you? Sorry.”
“No, they don’t. No sorry.”

“Are you still listening to me?”
“Yes, I am. Continue.”

It is that moment when they are eating ice cream on a bench by the beach. Only then, it occurs to her. No matter how much he dislikes beach, he is there next to her. And though he doesn’t fancy ice cream, he has one in his hand now.

His love is a different kind, but it is love, nevertheless.

That realization made her stops licking her ice cream, and looks at him from his side. Her stare breaks when he suddenly turns his head and snaps, “What?”

“I love you so much, you know.” She chuckles slightly.

He ignores her and continues admiring his ice cream.

“Thank you for being my husband.”

“Hmm.” That is the only sound that comes out of his mouth. Slightly annoyed. Slightly assuring.

And for her, that answer is everything she needs.

Thank You versus Sorry

Sorry I am late.

versus

Thank you for waiting patiently.

Which one sounds better to you?

Receiving sorry makes the listener feels like owing forgiveness to the speaker. The listener is put in place where he is expected to give something. Sorry also signifies guilt in the speaker. The speaker puts himself in need of forgiveness.

Thank you signifies gratitude. The speaker shows gratitude to the listener. The listener feels appreciated. He feels complimented for what he has given to the speaker who made the mistake, which the listener can’t take back and can’t undo.

The listener don’t have to weigh whether he needs to say

I forgive you

but instead, say

Thank you

for the gratitude and compliment he just received.

Let’s practice saying

Thank you for lending me your ears.

Thank you for giving me your time.

Thank you for supporting me despite our arguments.

Thank you for standing up for me against the bullies.

Thank you for being my friend.

Thank you for letting me be in your life.

May our lives be positive and beautiful.

I Write To Express

Who I Write For was the first on my Reader when I logged in today. It struck me with questions, many at once, all of a sudden – Who do I write for? Why do I write? Where is this habit going? I started to reflect all that was spent on writing since I was a kid.

I know I have always like writing. I started journal keeping since I was 9. I kept all of them till now. Rereading them feels like browsing through my own autobiography, one that has yet published. I recalled those days when I write for joy and won Best Essay in school and Best Story in English week. I got excited over book fairs and new novels my mother bought for me. Sometimes, I dream in novel lines instead of visuals, I hear narrators reading the dream in my sleep. Stories have become my childhood joy and writing was my self-expression.

I still love writing. It brings me joy when I feel low. It keeps my buzzing mind quiet when I put my thoughts to words. It expands my vocabulary and exercise my linguistic skills. However I feel that something is missing. I think it is the purpose. Because the purpose is what sets the meaning, the goals and the action plans. That is what I need to define.

Who Do I Write For?

Why Do I Write?

I write for myself. I write for the likes of me. I write to keep our mind calm and serene. Those who are like me but have yet written anything can find peace in reading my writings. For my writings spoke on behalf of them. My writings give voices to their inner critics and demons, but also give strengths to their guardian angels and soul to stand up for them. And when they finally succeed in life, even though they have forgotten where the strengths come from, my writings have done their magic intended. That is all that matters.

Where Is This Habit Going?

It is my dream to publish a book. It is my dream to make an income mostly out of my writings. It is my dream to leave a legacy to my readers circle.

The legacy starts with a biography. A biography starts with a fan. A fan starts with a book. A book starts with a story. A story starts with this blog. This blog started with a sentence. That sentence started with a word. That word was once only an idea.

It is happening.

Beauty

15995216_10154482985077690_963718302108104175_o

Before the picture above was taken, I was complaining how hot the weather was and took off my spectacles to wipe my face. My friend, the photographer, commented that I look beautiful without spectacles. I replied jokingly, “Ya, ya. Everybody says that to everyone wearing spectacles. It is not the spectacles. It is just because you have never seen me without one.” That was how this awkward facial expression became a photo.

I read from somewhere I can’t remember on Facebook that according to psychologists (so much credible there haha), women are at the peak of their beauty when they are 31. I am turning 31 this year. Many people complimented that I look thinner when I have been gaining weight. Maybe that is due to the fact that I am turning more beautiful. But deep inside I realized that it is not important.

It is not important whether I LOOK beautiful or not. However, it is important that I FEEL beautiful. How is that different?

CONFIDENCE

At this time of life, I have gained more confidence in my skills – cooking, public speaking, communication, leadership, making decision and many more. I have found many of my strengths and overcame or accepted many of my weaknesses and I am open to discovering new ones. I have, not only known what I like and what I hate, but faced them decisively. There are still many rooms for improvement, but I feel more relax in my life journey. I don’t care about looking beautiful anymore because I feel beautiful as I am.

SELF ESTEEM

I have stopped comparing myself to other people in terms of achievements, goals and worth. I have stopped asking “How do I look?” to my friends. I listened to feedbacks without taking them personally. I acknowledge my tribe and adjust my circles accordingly. I define myself in my own terms – my dreams, my goals and my priorities. I feel beautiful without much effort and still feel so without acknowledgement.

MINIMALISM

Discovering self has helped so much in living a minimalist life. Less clothes. Less commitment. Less things. Less spending. Less people. Quality, hand-tailored clothes that compliment my personality. Worthwhile commitments that support the cause that I believe in. Quality, personalized, important things that add value to my daily life. Manageable and conscious personal finance. Core people who support my well-being and uplift my spirit. These have been an empowering journey. I wear clothes that I feel most beautiful in, which limits to few in my wardrobe and simple make-up. I feel beautiful being with people who accept my beauty. I feel beautiful because life has become more meaningful without clutters.

I feel beautiful because I feel empowered from within. I no longer emphasize on looking beautiful. This is the kind of life that I used to look forward too. Right now, I am enjoying this moment.

Ask

Johor Jaya Toastmasters Club
International Speech Contest 2016/2017
22 February 2017

“She covers her whole body; she must be oppressed by her husband.”

“She wears all black; she must be a religious bigot.”

“She covers her head; she must be close-minded.”

Contestmaster and my fellow Toastmasters,

I can understand that you are amused that I just changed in front of you. And you feel that the extreme examples I just gave are funny. But let’s acknowledge one important thing right here – judgment exists. Despite the fact that the world has become borderless and internet is a global phenomenon, judgment persists. In fact, it has evolved into different kinds – internet bullying, visual manipulation and propaganda.

My mother taught me that “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” Once, many years ago, I received a feedback from a Toastmaster. She said, “Afzan, you should stop wearing baju kurung. You look outdated and closed-minded. You should flaunt your figures and baju kurung does little help with that. Even the name means locked cloth.” The first thing that came to my mind was, “Hold up right there, lady! I didn’t ask for your opinion. And why are you judging my character based on what I wear?” But I remembered my mother saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” But this lady persisted with her advice until one day when I found the right moment and words to say it, thanks to the evaluation skills I learned from Toastmasters. I simply said, “I feel beautiful in my hand-tailored baju kurung” and walked away. I would tell her why I like baju kurung so much, had she just asked.

My mother is the wisest person I had known for my whole life, until I know Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi. This sufi who is wiser than my mother once said, “Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?” Instead of just being nice and keep quiet, Rumi taught me that if it is true, necessary and kind, say it. I have a wise friend named Didi. Even though she is not wiser than Rumi and my mother, she once taught me something through a Facebook post. She put a quote as advice regarding teamwork. That time, we were together in a team for an event. I was taken aback and angry. So I just left Facebook. But later that same day, another teammate named Diana came into the picture. She commented on the post, “You should tell this to us face to face. You should be frank. You do this like a passive aggressor.” I was guilty of enjoying those for a little bit until I read Didi’s comment at the bottom. She wrote, “I am involved in a few organizations. I met hundreds of people every week. I am shocked that you have made this status about you and I, when in fact you could have just ask me directly.” That bullet went straight through my heart – wham! She was being true. She said what was necessary. She said it kindly – you could have just asked.

Asking is hard, because we have to step aside from our ego. A friend uploaded a sad status on Facebook, instead of thinking she is trying to get attention, we can ask, “Hey, Jenn. Are you okay? Do you need to talk?” Somebody told you that someone has been saying bad things about you, instead of trashing him back, we can ask, “Hey, QJ. Are you angry at me? I can’t help but feel like you do.” A teammate keeping a distance from the club, instead of judging her for lack of commitment, we can ask, “Hey, Diana. I noticed you have been missing from the club lately. How have you been?” And we will be surprised how much we can learn. A person who is so cheerful has a six-digit debt on her shoulder. An enemy who hates you has the feedback that you need to improve yourself. The missing teammate might teach you a real life lesson on how to juggle between jobs, family and a sick parent. But you must first, ask.

We can never put our feet in somebody else’s shoes. I was born Malay, I can never change to Chinese. I can never trade the 30 years of life I experienced with Ayen’s. A man can never know how hurtful giving birth feels like. Putting your feet into others’ shoes is rhetorical. The only real way out is to ask. And then listen.

My fellow Toastmasters,

The world will be a much better place if we talk to each other more than we talk about each other. Ask more. Ask now. Just ask.

Time of Changes

2017 is the year of personal branding, says an internet marketing coach in a course I attended.

I turned 30 October last year. Since then, in this short period of time, many things have changed. Changes that people don’t see in me unless they are very, very close to me. I have been minimizing many aspects in my life – home, time, finance, causes and people. I rebuild my Vision Board. I rewrite my profile and stories. I rethink many definitions I had believed for so many years.

Maybe the number 30 woke me up. Maybe it is just a realization that coincides the age. But dawn of 2016 and dusk of 2017 marked an important turning point in my life. this will be significant for many years to come.

What am I up to, now?

  1. Toastmasters. 2016/2017 term is a challenging one for me. I am presiding two clubs, Johor Jaya Toastmasters Club & Kelab Toastmasters Bahasa Melayu Johor Bahru. I am also working to pursue Distinguished Toastmaster title, the highest recognition for Toastmasters. I am not in a rush, neither feeling competitive. I just feel it is time now, after 7 years of practicing.
  2. Caramelicious. I started a bakery business from home few years ago. But it was last year that I decided to focus on this. Recently, I started to formally educate myself about internet marketing. This one keeps me happy.
  3. Writing. I love writing. As an introvert whose mind buzzing with ideas and checklists, I seek comfort in expressing myself through writing, other than public speaking in Toastmasters. Journals, blogs, Facebook and speeches become my writing medium. Ultimately, my largest source of income will be from my publications. I don’t know how exactly I will get there yet.

What skills am I investing in right now?

  1. Self-branding. This must start with how I see myself. People will only see me as much as I let myself be seen. To be seen is to let myself become vulnerable. This is a challenge for me. I don’t believe in those overrated marketing image-branding. The only other way to build a self-brand is to be genuine and trusting to people. And only the kindest people are able to do that. Do good regardless of the outcome.
  2. Baking & decorating. I bake for a living, yes. But truthfully, I still can’t grasp how exactly a cake can cost 5 digits. That’s my goal – to gain the skills and expertise of bakers who sells their cakes that much. That is truly other-worldly.
  3. Finance. This is so crucial for me. As someone who lives a carefree life in her twenties, I have finally came to term with my bad emotions in regards of finance. I studied Maths for my degree. It is never about the numbers. It is in healing my relationship with money, in opposed to how I have been brought up and how I started my adult life with student loan. It has affected many years of my life severely. It is only now that I managed to admit to people that this hinders my developments in other fields in my life.

The only goal in life is happiness. The only real way to that goal is continuous development. May we all exhale our last breathe as the best person we could be.

Closure

What is it about human hearts that makes us so weak yet so strong?

Recover.

Human hearts can never recover from pain. It just grows stronger and more resilient. No one recovers from broken hearts. No one gets over a lost person. No one stops feeling sad. The heart just molds into something more beautiful and more firm, like root penetrating soil to form gripping foundation for the growing tree.

Thus never make the mistake of telling someone that they will get over it or time will heal. Instead, congratulate for holding on, hold their hands as their heart transforms and pray for the invincible person they will become.

Sensitive.

Often I hear the label ‘sensitive’ given to a person like it is the worst weakness a human can have. Is being sensitive worse than putting down people? Is being sensitive worse than being disrespectful? Is being sensitive worse than lying? Absolutely not.

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It takes a sensitive woman to make a good mother. It takes a sensitive person to be a good leader who cares about his followers. It takes a sensitive countryman to make a good soldier. It takes a sensitive Prophet to last a teaching till the end of humankind.

A sensitive person just needs the skills to go with their strong emotions. To feel negative emotions without acting on it. To feel people’s hardship and compose a plan to help them. To notice the slightest changes to act on a different course of plan immediately with a strong mind.

Hence, never tell a sensitive person to stop feeling or contain their emotion. Teach them the skills to pour that overwhelming energy into positive actions. Help them regain their senses when they are losing their head to their hearts.

Closure.

This is something hard, for me. Something I have yet figured out. How do you move on from a certain feeling? Forgiving without receiving any apology. Loving someone new without the certainty of letting go of a person. How do you create a closure?

Even though the forgiveness is said out loud and the love is made known, there is something unsettling deep in heart. Maybe my heart hasn’t reach it’s full transformation yet. Maybe it is not something that needs solving, but like riddles, enjoyed in amusement of anticipating the answer.

THE CHOICE IS OURS TO MAKE…

whether to build people’s strengths or keep correcting their mistakes, to be in awe of their beauty of imperfections or making them follow the mainstreams, to listen to their awkward side or to highlight those sides they are not proud of.

I finally understood when Ella’s mother told her to “Have courage. Be kind.”

The End

Heart: Today is the final day.
Brain: I am well aware of that.

Heart: Have we found something?
Brain: We are still looking.

Heart: Are we closer to the solution?
Brain: I don’t know.

Heart: Can we define the problem, at least?
Brain: I believe we can’t.

Heart: Then what’s the point in reaching this mark?
Brain: It has always been about to keep going on. We succeeded. We are still doing it. We will succeed. InsyaAllah.

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