Strangely enough, for someone who is often so fiery and opinionated, I recently, well, not quite recently, have figured out that I am very much afraid of voicing out my opinions. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it really had to do with my previous job where my self-esteem was completely broken by my boss. My boss was emotionally and mentally abusive, frequently calling into question my integrity and my intelligence.
Not a day would go by without him actually humiliating me in front of my colleagues by dismissing my work or my opinions as “childish” or, the one that haunts me to this day: “You’re asking stupid questions.”
For someone who had spent 21 years in a very nurturing family and had gone to schools where I am expected to question and demand an explanation, it was more than a shock. Three years in one of UK’s most prestigious universities and four scholarships later and suddenly, I was stuck to doing data entry work with no possibility of going further than data entry because “she’s inexperienced and we don’t think she can do anything.”
That was almost 2 years ago and I am still shaken by my experiences. I cannot write anything without worrying that it would offend anyone or that my opinions are stupid. And I start to realize that I start not having an opinion on anything and that I’m just indifferent to anything that goes on around me.
It’s hard for me to write anything without fearing that someone would “judge” me. I’m taking baby steps all around, from the play to writing classes to overcome this fear. Yet, the scars remain and despite the number of times I’ve told myself to get over it, there are nights where I still cry myself to sleep. It’s easier to not have an opinion, everyone will just leave me alone.
But the thing is, I do have an opinion. I love my Doctor Who, I love writing, I love murder mysteries and to an extent, I still love politics. If a close friend asks for my opinion, I can share them and be open about it. However, it’s not the same when it comes to strangers. I rarely share my opinion with people I don’t know, certainly a bizarre trait for a writer. Writers are, by nature, egoistic and opinionated. It’s what fuels us to write, we want to share what we feel and what we experience because we cannot contain it within us. We want people to read and dammit, agree with what we say.
However, humanity isn’t so kind as to always agree with what the Writer says. If I want to write, I have to accept that there will be disagreements. The question that I have to ask myself very strongly is: am I brave enough to stand and say what I believe? From my scathing review of P Ramlee the musical, which I disliked for being indulgent and for its greatest failure: failing to capture the zeitgist of an era that I adore to even my very bizarre interpretation of Malaysian society, it’s my opinion, it’s how I see it. Do I dare stand and be criticized and to a greater extent which I’ve experienced here, be ridiculed for an opinion that is different?
If I don’t, the alternative is to go back to what I was doing, go back to getting a “normal” job: an office job which I can get and then suppress whatever desire I have when it comes to writing. The thought of going back to “normality” frightens the hell out of me. At the same time, pursuing this dream of writing makes me feel like it’s some form of a dirty secret. I wrote blogs but to openly admit, I want to write for a living and not as a journalist was like admitting I wanted to have deviant sex. Lots of hot deviant sex.
I still have a long way to go to be able to chase this dream. I still need to build the strength and courage to be open and to write without fear. One writer commented that writing is a lot like standing in front of the mirror naked. I need to be able to stand in front of the mirror, bare naked and all and stare at my body, all it’s imperfections and love it. Not squirming and being embarrassed, covering my bits and tits with my hands.
There are days where I can pursue with confidence and know that this is the life that I have chosen and this is the only way forward. These are the days that I treasure, where I can write openly and write whatever things I feel inside of me are terrible and be open about it. The days where I want the world to see what I see and feel what I feel.
And yet, there are days, where I wonder, if I am indulgent and I wonder, what right do I have to pursue my dreams when I have a life to lead and live?