Posted in INTEC, Writing assignment

Not Nearly The Cheesiest Thing I’ve Written


The following essay was meant for Writing class, and is so cheesy it would give Gus Gus indigestion. So bear with me now. 

When you fire an M-16 rifle, you are required to nestle the stock firmly in the concave between your scapula and your chest. Properly done, you release a well-aimed shot – albeit with the disorienting sensation of temporary deafness – and you are satisfied. But if in an unfortunate scenario in which the stock is not well supported, you feel the backward momentum of the rifle push back against you as your bullet is fired. The miniature explosion forces you backwards a couple of centimeters and you land with your face planted firmly in the soil, hands and legs akimbo. Glass breaks in your upper chest and the electrical impulses fire.

That, ladies and gentleman, is what it feels like when someone says “I-love-you” to you.

Robert Solomon said it first, and he said it best. The romantic ‘“I-love-you” doesn’t fit into our conversation. It interrupts them. Or ends them,’ (p. 22) he argues in his aptly titled article, ‘I-Love-You’. It is no surprise, really, that trying to express the essence of an emotion that was never meant to be expressed in anything human language can devise would only end in disaster.

But what of familial love? What of friendship? Does their ‘I-love-you’ sound like a gunshot too?

I vaguely recall sitting in the living room with my diapered rump on the marble floor back when I lived in Taiping, my mother ensconced on the mattress in front of me, cradling my baby sister. She would entertain the both of us; my sister only required the occasional pat or two while my mother had to take to questioning me to keep me occupied. Her favorite inquiry was the one that would cause my three-year-old person the most emotional anguish:

“Who do you love more? Mummy or Papa?”

What a question to ask a toddler.

I would pause for a while, racking my small brains for an answer that would cause me the least grief.

“Both also same.”

I would give myself a mental cheer for being such a diplomatic child. But my mother was not finished with me. She would give me a coy smile and ask:

“Show Mummy how much.”

Ah, dang.

I would hold out my pudgy arms as wide as my physical structure would permit and try to roughly estimate, in terms of arm span, how much I loved my parents. Needless to say, the effort was futile.

Parental love, familial love, and friendship – these variations of love do not require that I say anything per se. This ‘I-love-you’ is not – cannot be – said. This ‘I-love-you’ is silent and unassuming. It does not herald its coming with the great blast of a rifle; it does not want for attention. And like the kind of ‘I-love-you’ that characterizes them, these relationships do not demand that I openly proclaim my love and loyalty, and neither do I expect it of them. There is simply too much seen together – felt together – that neither the meager proclamation of ‘I-love-you’ nor the arm span of a child is sufficient to encompass everything that connects us. After all, what is saying ‘I-love-you’ but a poor, clumsy attempt at quantifying emotions that were never meant to be quantified?

The people who love me and the people I love stake no claims, make no accusations, and expect nothing in return. I am silent, and I love them. They know. There is no ‘perhaps’ to it. No words can excuse the breach of the sanctity of silence when you love someone so wholly, nothing seems enough to describe the emotion of it.  It simply cannot be ‘nailed down’ (Tesich, p.2) in three words pretentiously connected by hyphens.  I ask you – how do you orally express the love of a woman who steps into a room smelling like sour mother’s milk while her daughters trail alongside her, leaving the powdery scent of talcum powder behind them? How do you capture the quintessence of a friend who has been by your side through thick and thin? So in lieu of language, ‘I-love-you’ is substituted with care, advice, company, understanding and shared experiences beyond the reaches of even the most expressive phrase human language can craft. ‘I-love-you’ becomes ‘I = Love + You’.

Solomon has the right of it. ‘I – love – you’ is ‘a terrible thing to say to someone’ (p. 23). It subtracts, taking away the magic, ripping off the suspense. It is a bullet, rushing to tell what can only be shown, and it compresses and binds true emotions to mere permutations of the English alphabet. ‘I = Love + You’, however – ‘I = Love + You’ is selfless and unassuming. It does not want to take, and neither does its presence need to be announced, because it just is. It needs no justification, no defense, no nailing down. ‘I = Love + You’ only wants to give, to add to the beauty of the relationship. And in my silence, rest assured that you hold a special place in my heart – beyond the reaches of the spoken word and everything else in between – for there can be no me if I do not love you.

PS: ‘I-Love-You’ is also like blue cheese. It takes a particular sort of palette to stomach its sheer pungency, and I have not been so fortunately/unfortunately endowed.

Posted in Education, Scholarship interview, Scholarships

Karma and Community Service

I figured since I received most of my help applying for scholarships via blogs, I’d repay the favor by posting one on scholarships myself, to help prepare whoever reads this for what is to come. Links to the scholarships can be found here.

(Viewer discretion advised: all content posted is purely writer’s personal experience).

1.Start with the easy ones

Yes – prepare yourself for spending hours on end staring at the computer screen, filling out forms that eventually seem to make no difference. But it’s going to make a difference. I started out by finishing the ones that could be done fast – PETRONAS, Maybank, PNB, Yayasan Tenaga Nasional – these are a few of those that can be completed in one sitting. Other applications like the Bank Negara Scholarship and the Yayasan Khazanah requires an essay each, so you’ll need to spend more time on those.

2. Fill in the paper forms with pencil first

I made the mistake of filling in both my Maybank and PNB forms with pen. I think I murdered at least two acres of virgin jungle reprinting those forms. No – correction tape or liquid paper of any kind is acceptable on those forms. So yes, fill in the blanks with pencil like the good, environmentally-friendly human being you are then finalize in pen.

3. Essays must be prepared beforehand.

Some scholarship applications require an essay, like the Bank Negara and Yayasan Khazanah Scholarships. There are no set rules to writing the perfect essay, but it would be good if you talk about what really matters to you with someone else. It will help you come up with ideas on why you want to do what you want to do and not sound pretentious about it. Don’t try to play humble. But don’t be too vain. Yeah – sounds like you need to swim while drinking water. I feel you. Also, pre-write the essay in Word document if possible. Then just copy and paste.

HOWEVER – Bank Negara will ask you to write an essay on the spot (cuz they merciless dat wey) so sit down for a bit, and think about your achievements, what they mean to you, any significant events in your life, your goals and why they are that way. List them down or talk about it – whatever helps. Then write when you are ready.

4. Deadlines are lies

No. Do not, under any circumstance, listen to that deadline. Doing anything on the day of the deadline is what you call A BAD IDEA. So many things could go wrong. Your Internet could crash. The post office could be closed. Envelopes could be sold out. The world could end. So get it done as soon as possible. Cause you never know. Stuff happens.

5. You will suffer, but you will be happy about it

Yes, those applications can really affect your self esteem. It’s as though all those co-curricular blanks were meant to be filled with international-level participation and those SPM spaces were meant for strings of A+. It will affect you. Take some time off for a breather. I don’t really know how I got out of that semi-depressive state myself, but I think telling myself that it was okay to be okay helped. But all things come to pass, and eventually you will finish that application and who knows? Maybe good news in a few weeks? It will all be worth it.

I think that’s about it. If there are any questions you’d like to ask me just post it in the comments below (if anyone does read this, of course). I’d be glad to be of assistance.

PS: You’ll need at least five sets of photocopied and stamped certificates and at least ten copies of your IC. So be prepared.