Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Seniors

A notification popped up on my Facebook earlier today. It was a friend commenting on an old video made and posted on facebook by a friend of mine. It was a video of our seniors saying farewell to us juniors since their time in Macquarie University, Sydney was up and they had to get on planes back to Malaysia. The whole content of the video was them either at the airport or just heading to the airport, just saying goodbye and giving us their final pieces of advice.

Watching it reminded me of how close we had grown to each other during that short year of being around each other. This was especially true for me since from the get go, I had stayed with nine of them up until their final days in uni. I had started as a super-introverted guy, really really shy with all of them since I wasn’t all that close to them during the teacher training institute days. Some might have seen me as a sombong guy, and I don’t blame them since I barely spoke around them in the early days. In truth, I was afraid of them. They were my seniors and they knew so many things that I didn’t know, and were so close to each other that when I was thrown into the mix, I felt like such an outsider, not worthy of mingling with them since I would just be a nuisance.

But as time went on, I warmed up to them and they warmed up to me. We got close to each other through time spent with each other and just going through problems as a unit. We had our troubled days, yes, but in the bigger scheme of things, those problems ended up bringing us closer together and opened up doors for us to trust each other more. We’d have late night talks, either at home or at the Auburn Macca’s. They helped me a lot in a lot of regards, from giving advice on assignments to trying to retrieve stolen property, among other things. I am very grateful I was blessed with their company.

It was a bit weird to see them again in light of today. What I mean is, back then, they were so much wiser than us in comparison. How much just one more year in a university in a foreign country can make to people. I still view them as wise people today. But as both cohorts have grown into the teaching profession now, we aren’t seen as that much different from each other anymore. It wouldn’t be such a stretch to say that we can now be considered equals. We have both gone through teacher training, which included a couple of years overseas, and are now relatively new teachers in all our schools. If a senior teacher who’d been in the profession for 20 years already took a look at both our cohorts, they’d say we were the same.

To me, they’ll always be my seniors. The ones that helped me through a lot during my years overseas especially. But it just struck me while thinking about it how everyone else who weren’t with us during those years would ever know how we have affected each others’ lives, how much hardships we’ve been through together, how much fun we’ve had together. Some of us have kept in touch, while some others have fizzled out of contact with each other. Despite that fact, there will always be that special place in both our memories and our hearts of Macquarie University, Sydney in the year 2011.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tak Pakai Otak

So earlier today I retweeted something about people’s attitudes towards GST, and I got a reply from a person who was offended by the opinion. In their reply, they said (among other things) that I was not using my brain at all. Tak pakai otak, katanya. I’d like to attack this idea of saying that other people aren’t using their brains.

See, I don’t think they meant it literally. I don’t think that they actually believe that my brain was dead upon retweeting and replying to the initial tweet, because if I wasn’t using my brain at all, I would even have retweeted the tweet in the first place. I would most probably have been dead. Or asleep. Whichever way, still disabling me from acting at all the way I did.

What I think the person actually meant was that I was using my brain wrongly. I was thinking about it the wrong way, according to them. That I didn’t have access to the truth that they had, thus I came out with the malicious retweet in support of the said tweet. Because I didn’t hold the same opinion that they did, I must have a defect in my brain, or at least in how I was using it, since I didn’t arrive at the truth that they did.

Here’s how it is: different people think differently. You can’t help that, since different people were raised differently and have different circumstances surrounding them. For example, one growing up as a son of a mildly successful restaurant owner in the city, and one growing up as a daughter of two public school teachers. Can you say that one worldview is better than the other. No. Neither of them are superior nor inferior. They’re just different. It can’t be helped.

Now, who is to say that any opinion held by the son is invalid? Who is to say any opinion held by the daughter is invalid? Just because their opinions don’t match on certain issues, does that mean that one of them isn’t using their brains properly? No, because they are both informed by different things. One person thinks about it this way, and the other person thinks about it the other way. Neither one of them have any right to accuse the other of not using their brains properly. They’re both using it in the unique way they were taught or shown how to use it.

Running with that logic, the one where a person who doesn’t think the way you think is using their brains wrong, would it be such a leap of the imagination to accuse you of the same. If all it takes for one to be using their brains wrongly is by thinking differently from the other, than everyone in the whole wide world is using their brains wrongly. And that can’t be right, can it?

Real talk: different people think differently. Sure, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but open up your heart to understanding that it’s a fundamental thing to hold on to in order for us to be open to learning new things and grow and prosper. Be kind, and let yourself be wrong sometimes. Ask yourself on the regular, “what if I’m wrong?” and be open to discovering a different truth that might just be better and make more sense to you than the one you hold on to at the moment. Be humble enough to admit that you sometimes make mistakes, and be forgiving enough towards yourself to say “that’s okay”. 

Or not.

Words On Love

I’ve been on a mini-writing hiatus of about (let’s see) four days now, and wanting to get back to typing, I thought about what I was going to write about. None immediately came to mind, so I checked my idea-bank (which I store in my twitter drafts place). It was empty. a little frazzled, but not to give up on myself, I asked myself, “what do people usually write about?”

I quick stroll through the Malaysian-published books in your local bookstore would suggest that the most popular thing to write about is love, followed closely by religion, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll concentrate on love being a topic people write about. 

There have been novels upon novels with the word “cinta” on them for the majority of literary works produced by local authors throughout the years (this trend is currently being superseded by having “suamiku” in the titles) until at one point, I even asked myself if any author could get published if their book-titles were to be without that word, or similarly themed words such as “rindu”. 

Of course, there are definitely a handful of books that go on to be pretty popular that are without those words in the title such as the works of Hlovate and Ramli Awang Mursyid, but they make the minority. Everybody seemed to want to write about love. 

And upon looking back at my own blog, that theme is one of the themes that I touch very little on (at least in my non-fictional kind of writing). It’s a topic that I’ve seemed to always want to steer clear of, and that is the case because, firstly, I don’t like doing what everyone else is doing for the sake of doing it because everyone else is doing it (hipster teroxxx), but secondly, and more importantly, I don’t feel adept at explaining it.

So many people go around expressing their views about love as if their views of it is gospel and like there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to love and any problems you may have with it. I’m sure many of them learn new things as they go about their lives and end up changing their views about it several times throughout, which isn’t a bad thing at all, since we’re all humans and we make mistakes and growth doesn’t come without change. To that effect, any view that we have of the world is bound to evolve and change somehow, so it’s acceptable to not hold on to just one view for too long.

But I don’t talk about love (at least that ewwy mushy kind) because of cooties. No, I’m just kidding. It’s because I don’t see myself as any kind of authority in it. What I do know is that what works for some people doesn’t necessarily work for others, and that’s basically a general rule for everything in life, not just love.

I do, however, believe that love is one of the most beautiful emotions bestowed upon us, and I only use the word “beautiful” to describe it because of the lack of a better word in my limited vocabulary. It is the emotion that every parent feels towards their children. It is the feeling we have towards our siblings (or at least the one I have for mine). It is the only word on your mind when we finally discover our soul-mates. It is what drives us through hard times. It is what makes us smile. It is what makes us cry. It is what makes us human. It is our common denominator. 

I have written love stories before, for sure. A perusal of the fiction-section of my book would make that obvious. But to say I’ve figured love out? No. I have so much more to learn.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Question of Holidays

Have you ever been so glad that a holiday has arrived, but by the end of it feel so unsatisfied with it? I've had several, and a lot of people have also expressed such a feeling either to their closest friends or online. Mostly online though.

I noticed that I wished that the holiday period could be extended. Admittedly, sometimes I do find that by the end of the holiday, I am looking forward to going back to work/school/college, but more often than not, I'd rather continue taking time off from the stresses that serious stuff puts on my plate.

I had a think about why I felt such a way. There could be a multitude of reasons, but for the purpose of this post, I'd like to zero in on one reason in particular: that I feel like I haven't made the best out of my time off. I'd want more time to not do work stuff and more time to do stuff that I'd only have time for during the holidays. But what are those things?

I've never actually outlined what I look for in a holiday. Whenever a holiday comes, I just revel in the fact that I don't have to go to work for a period of time, and I rarely go beyond that thought. But to spend the holidays in a way that will leave me satisfied by the end of it, I need to make clear what it is I want satisfied. That is, what are my goals for the holidays? Why does having all this free time matter to me? If I weren't at work, what would I rather be doing?

So I first have to define what a holiday means to me. Side-note: this is starting to sound very much like work. Padahal nak sembang pasai cuti kot. Side-side-note: but I'm discussing this so that I can start to spend my holidays in a productive manner. Takmaw dah buang masa not knowing what I'm doing with my time, nor what I'm even supposed to be doing.

What is a holiday? It's time off from work. Sure, that definition is a general definition for everyone, but what does it mean to me, specifically. Why do I, Noor Anwar Hadi, value holidays?

One of the reasons I value it is because I get all this time to do stuff that I am passionate about but aren't work-related. They include (but are not limited to) spending time with my family, learning new things, taking on new experiences, reading, writing and making music.

So there you go. Holidays for me is a time when I can and should spend time with my family, learn new things, experience new things, read, write and make music. A now have a general list which I can tick whenever the holidays come around. Keeping it general like that is a bad idea for a procrastinator like myself, so whenever a new holiday rolls around, I should specify exactly what it is I'm going to do within each of those categories. For example:

- Spend time with family: from this date to this date, balik kampung.
- Learn new thing: watch three documentaries about hip-hop on Youtube.
- Experience new thing: volunteer for soup kitchen at this location on this date.
- Read: *Book title* by *author*.
- Write: Three short stories.
- Make music: One three-minute-long rap song.

Once I have all these tangible goals set, I can start doing each of them. And if by the end of the holiday I can tick all of them off the list, then I'd be satisfied with myself and not feel guilty about wasting my holiday doing what also I don't know.

I think that's a good way to approach a holiday, at least for me. By the end of it, I'd be able to feel a sense of achievement that I've spent my holiday doing something meaningful and fulfilling.

But of course, to each their own. What works for me might not work for you, dear reader. If you find yourself dissatisfied by the end of most holidays, then I suggest you find out what works for you by asking yourself the initial questions and set out to make holidays more fulfilling for yourself.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hi Former Teacher

The other day I went to an open mic event to be a spectator. About halfway through the event, a person I knew walked in the room. 

She was a retired teacher trainer whom I've volunteered with for a two-day art event as one of her assistance. I smiled at her, but it was obvious from the way she looked at me and her body language that she didn't recognise me. I let it go and didn't pursue it.

It turned out that she was performing as the closer of the event that night. She read some of her original poetry.

When she went up on stage, I told my friend that was sitting beside me that I knew her.

"I know her. She's a retired teacher trainer." I said. "I worked with her in an event last year. But she doesn't remember me anymore."

My friend glanced at her, then looked at me and said, "But she's definitely glad that you remember her."

That hit me in the feels because of how true that was. She was an educator, and as people who go through hundreds of students year after year, remembering each and every one of your students after you cease to see them daily is a monumental ask.

But teachers always get a warm fuzzy feeling within themselves when former students make themselves known to the their teacher. One feels appreciated, even loved by this simple gesture. Both my parents are experienced teachers, so watching them meeting former students makes this obvious to me. That friend who pointed this out to me at the open mic is also a much more experienced teacher than I am, so that friend knew what she was talking about.

Even with the less-than-one-year of teaching experience I have right now, I am able to catch a glimpse of how that feels like when students that I no longer teach still call me out "Mister Anwar!" when walking around the school compound. I can only imagine how the feeling is compounded when off campus.

Point is, I guess, when you see a former teacher of yours when you're out and about, try to make the effort to say hi to them (but only if it's not an imposition to them). You don't need to sit down and chat for hours recounting the good old days or anything. Just two minutes of asking what's up is more than enough. Chances are, you'll end up making their day.

Every Person A Story

The world is a sphere full of stories.
There are 6 billion people round the Earth.
Each and every one of them different.
Each and every one of them unique.
Each and every one of them a story.

And that's not to even mention the
102 billion that have come before the six.
Just imagine, every individual, a walking book
just waiting to be told.
Just waiting to be read.
Just waiting to unfold.

And all those six billion stories
that tread the ground are bound
by one timeline.
They are all being unraveled
Isn't that crazy?

To think that
right now, two brand new people
are being born into this world.
You can't help but imagine
both sets of parents jubilant 
to have witnessed the miracle of miracles
occur right in front of their very eyes.

Yet, by the time it took for me to finish that sentence
twenty other people have reached the end of their time
here on Earth.

It's crazy to think that right at this very moment
people are waking up and sleeping at the same time,
falling in love and falling apart, or maybe just falling, at the same time,
doing their first open mic and selling out stadiums, at the same time,
watching football and tanam padi at the same time.

Mind-boggling how that's our reality.
And yet most of the time we're trapped in our heads,
worrying about ourselves, yourself, myself,
without the awareness of our own uniqueness,
and our insignificance.

You're having a bad day?
Believe that someone has it worse.
You're having an awesome one?
Knowledge is a curse 
that won't let you be the happiest bear
because you know somewhere out there
someone's doing infinitely better
paralleled by yet another cracking under pressure.

This puts us in a middle zone,
an area of awareness that reminds us 
to at all times, be mindblown,
and chill.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar released his second full-length commercial album, "To Pimp A Butterfly" recently, and I've been spending some quality time with it. 

There are many reviews of this album circulating the internet already, many saying that it's the new benchmark for works of art in the world of hiphop, so I won't be adding anything to that since I'm pretty much in agreement with it.

What I will say though is how I admire the vision Kendrick has in his works and he makes this vision just obvious enough for the listener to understand what he's trying to do with his pieces of work. It's tough to listen to only one song of Kendrick's. Yes, the individual singles are amazing as they are, but when one understands that it was made to fit into the bigger picture of the album, one can't help but feel an urgent need to listen to the album from front to back.

Whenever I listen to any of Kendrick joints, it's really tough for me to concentrate on anything else. His pieces of work have this affect on me that demands my attention, not allowing me to just have it playing in the background. It demands to be my main preoccupation. It could just be that I am terrible at multitasking (and I am), but I can put other albums on and be able to do other things at the same time (with some exceptions, of course). 

But up until now, any Kendrick album/song that reaches my ears will almost definitely make me sit down, drop everything else and listen. I don't know what it is about his work, but I hope to one day find out, and emulate. Hopefully.

I guess what I find most attractive about Kendrick's work is that it is so apparent that he is trying to make the world a better place using his art, without compromising on the art. The effort stands out and is undeniable, thus making it much easier to appreciate.

Of course, I won't be able to even get anywhere close to that if the effort I put into the craft is like it is now. I haven't written anything new in, like, two months now. And that's saddening. I can throw excuses such as being too busy or tired with school stuff and other preoccupations, but we all know it's because I don't want it enough. I'm not hungry enough when it comes to this path. I need to retain that hunger. Hopefully with this new Kendrick record dropping, it'll make me get back on the horse and start writing and recording again. Hopefully.