Hi! Happy new year :)
Did you take time to reflect on 2021? I did not, but I’m at peace with it as I’ve been editing my life for much of end-2021, so I didn’t feel like doing extra work.
I have been untangling how much of my lifestyle choices are due to unavoidable circumstances, or dubious choices. The spaces I occupy bring out certain behaviours in me. I am surrounded by options and entertainment in Petaling Jaya. The question isn't whether or not I will fill up my time, but how? Somewhere along the lines, I forgot that curation includes the empty spaces.
Some major updates from me: In the past few months, I have been working with a global organisation, leading communications campaigns and training marketing teams within Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. I’ve also embarked on coaching others. Work is varied and plentiful, and involves nerdy ventures as well as non-profit cultural projects 💕.
I also received a full scholarship to learn a new language. I cannot believe this luck and would like to do well in my first formal class since my ADHD diagnosis. I also know now that I don’t need perfection as much as I do work-life balance (the phrase finally makes sense to me).
I burned out hard in an intense campaign period near the end of the year. Many factors happened (fast!) beyond my control, and I found myself doing the work of two persons. I should have taken a pause. I learned my body can shake from the exhaustion of work and thinking.
I’m not about that life, so I devised a new framework to make my schedule more restful and forgiving. My goal is to balance what I can, work only as I am supposed to, and have tiring days be the exception. I was worried recuperation would take a long time, but I’m glad a year-end holiday and the life changes worked out well.
For New Year’s Eve, I took a much needed break in Terengganu. I stayed in an artist's beautiful seaside kampung house with a few close friends. We didn’t do any of the activities we planned. We lazed by the sea, read a lot, and barbecued fresh seafood at night. Time moves slower by the sea. Even the neighbourhood morning market only opened after 11AM.
The night sea is one of my favourite things. It is vast, intimidating. I love the sound of waves crashing, and the hiss of sea foam that follows. The salty sea air dominates everything, misting into the home with strong winds. It’s relaxing, but over time, the sea would claim all electronic devices. I learned that it makes for a beautiful holiday, but the maintenance needed to live there is not for me.
I was back home for nearly two weeks, before making my way to Langkawi. I am staying on this island for a month with my friend Alia, who celebrated the one-year anniversary of her wonderful food website Periuk on the day I arrived.
Tying up loose ends in PJ was frustrating. It was a rush to prep and tend for others before leaving. I couldn’t even pack everything in my list. I’m usually in the airport three hours before my flight. This time, I got into the departure hall the same minute they boarded passengers for my flight.
Once that flight took off, I left behind all the responsibilities Other Lainie had accumulated. It was liberating. I will now always take year-end breaks. I am here to learn if island life suits me — not as a holiday destination, but as a space where mini holidays and a slower culture are built into the environment of daily life.
I'm not sure if building a new life anywhere else is the solution for me. Does a simpler life require a simpler place? Do I need to edit myself, my space, or both? Now I know, after arriving in Langkawi with only a selection of what I needed to pack, that my material needs are simpler than my estimation.
I want to find a balance of simplicity that isn’t defined by scarcity or necessity. But I’m still figuring out what should be the guiding pillars of this process. I am more relaxed in Langkawi and Terengganu, and I need to figure out if that is more a product of being away from home, or just having a temporarily simpler life, or both.
My friend Melizarani introduced me to a great quote:
“Home is what you take with you, not what you leave behind.”
— NK Jemisin
I think…I am my own home. I need a nest wherever I go, and that nest can be simple. The more complicated factor may be that I function very well as a single person in PJ, but I think that life would be lonelier in Langkawi.
I close my first week in Langkawi with some questions to solve. I don’t know if I will, but there is much to enjoy about the process.
As for sharing what I love in this newsletter? In this edition, all I have to say is taking conscious steps to show up for myself has worked out well. It’s possible to find the ways we can make life easier, better, and more joyful for ourselves. Sometimes, it’s not what we add, but what we edit out to make room for better things to grow. I hope you find space to do the same, and that you do the necessary.