Image description: Four panels of comics drawn by illustrator Hasanthika Serensina, from an article in Electric Lit called What It’s Like to Lose Your First Language. The caption above the first two panels wrote: “Scientists say there is a process to how you lose a language. It’s called language attrition.” The first panel contains: A part of a pocket watch visible against a black background, with the caption: “First you lose the word. Then you lose the grammar. Last you lose the sound.” The second panel contains Part of a hand holding the pocket watch visible against a black background, with the caption: “But scientists don’t believe the language is completely lost.” The third panel contains: An old white man in a suit holding the pocket watch against a black background, looking towards the reader, with the caption: A process like hypnosis, for example, might be used to help recall. The fourth panel contains A black background, with two speech bubbles. The first speech bubble is captioned: “Stop!”. The second speech bubble is captioned: “I don’t want my first language back.”
After fostering three stupid kittens (who are still here) who showed in my yard and almost made their way into the car tyres, my home office, my precious space, was almost dismantled completely to let these dumdums roam / zoomie around without causing much damage (‘much’ is an understatement). The wires are coiled and kept away safely, the second monitor shelved in another room, and my favourite swing arm standing lamp (which I call my ‘focus lamp’ as when I switched it on to work on my thesis, the rest of the world in my peripheral view can wait for a few hours) folded away. Precious books I referred to more often than the rest that I kept on a stool next to my desk were also returned to the shelves, no more hierarchy, as it was feared that one, or two, or three of these furry sprightly babies would run into them and lest they’d tumble to the ground and hurt them. For a few months, I worked on my laptop from my dinner table downstairs, occasionally pushing my files and papers away to make space for actual dinner to be served on the very table.
After graduating, I was sickly worried with the neverending job hunt in this pandemic and this recession that got me nowhere. Plus, as the Malaysian economy ‘reopens’, companies which had never been accustomed to WFH were so eager to drop the idea altogether and return to the office, so the remote working option — which is the option I am opting for — is out of the picture for most of them. I am not looking to elaborate more on this absurdity on requiring newly hired employees to uproot their lives and relocate across the country solely for work when the pandemic is still ongoing and the precarity of the economy is still hanging by a flimsy thread, ready to snap at any second. So as the kittens grew up and it seemed much safer to return my home office, my precious space, to its previously welcoming state, was put to a halt.
A month ago, I had been getting a steady requests for paid work, which I am grateful for my wonderful circle of friends. In one of the first few stints I was going to be commissioned for, I spent hours sitting on a stool (for one of the kittens had claimed the chair as his own) typing and transcribing hours of workshop materials. As a result, my back felt like a twig about to snap if I were to move in a slight haste. That weekend I decided this was it — maybe if I return this precious space of mine, this home office, to its state of former glory, some magic will invite itself back in — physically (as in my back will never hurt again) and mentally (*this, obviously, requires more work). So I had to apologise to the Chair Stealer Kitten as I reclaimed my chair, dusted off the work table, placed the monitor in its appropriate angle again, rearranged the stationeries and my favourite books (the hierarchy is back) and decided to forgo working from the dinner table altogether.
*In accepting all of these wonderful jobs I was entrusted with and lined up for me, I am also forced to face head on with my previous workplace trauma and my healing. It helps a lot that one of the work I am doing with deals with the idea of care and safety, a notion somehow I felt disconnected with after so many years. There are these safe and warm voices from all of the talented people who recommended me saying I am totally qualified to do all of these — which of course I am! — but there are also all of these strange, foreign, vicious voices I anticipate to emerge from one of the chat backchannels telling me I will screw this up and they will never expect any less. This is also another topic I do not want to elaborate further, except to let you know I am learning to lean towards the good voices (which are real present people) rather than the past voices, so I am good and there is nothing much to worry about. I am sharing the lesson from Foreign Bodies on trauma (although the edition is on intergenerational trauma):
Don’t believe everything you think! Traumatic events are watershed events in most people’s lives: there is a “before the accident” and “after the accident” so to speak. Because of the nature of how big these events are and their impact on life, it’s normal for your thinking patterns to feel very much unlike yourself. It’s important to recognize: “Hey, this isn’t really me. I need some help to feel and process like myself again.”
And a thought: What if we thought of emotional trauma the way we do physical: as a wide class of wounds whose healing is unpredictable, whose scars take different forms?
Reading in my tabs:
- How did the Internet get so bad?
- The virus isn’t simply a health crisis; it is also a design problem.
- The furor with a grading algorithm for the A-level exam results for thousands of UK students shows why algorithms are never neutral. Also, too many AI researchers think real-world problems are not relevant.
- Platform data do not provide a direct window into human behaviour. Rather, they are direct records of how we behave under platforms’ influence. So, always ask, what purpose does the measurement initially serve?
- “[A]ll parts of who we are are present in this work, especially when it’s around racial justice. And so, we should be carving out space for people to just name their limits and also name their vulnerabilities and saying, ‘I can’t right now….and that’s fine.”” On Black activism and burnout, and how the well-being of activists is interrelated with the well-being and sustainability of social movements.
- “[A]s I am writing this, my lumchum is encased in a bag covered in stripes and musical dinosaurs; I am sheepish but largely unfazed by this. A cursory survey of my friends and family has found that on average, chaochaos tend to stick around well into a person’s thirties, forties, even fifties. You never buy a new one because you want to, but because you are forced to. There is also no telling which pillow will do it for you. Much like love, it just happens.” An ode to the chaochao, or the ‘smelly pillow’, a must-have in every Malaysian household that I remember (including mine).
- A volunteer-run guide that will help you set up a tablet for an elder isolated by COVID.
- Can’t afford Masterclass(es)? Here’s masterWiki, “stolen from MasterClass, republished as wikiHow”.
- Universe is an app that allows anyone to design a web page on their phone, no code needed. Perfect for individuals as well as small businesses, as it can handle the merchandise, manage inventory, shipping, and operations on the back end. There might be limitations, but I am excited to see where this might lead. Thank you WITI for the link.
- Books with unusual but brilliant structures.
- So TIL that the moon is drifting away from us and honestly can you ever blame our sis
- “Come celebrate /with me that everyday/ something has tried to kill me/ and has failed.”
- Reading: Angela Saini’s Superior: The Return of Race Science. I also just finished Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and honestly, what a ride! I am not always into horror novels, but I am enjoying every bit of Moreno-Garcia’s book — part Lovecraftian, part Alfred Hitchcock, all Gothic setting — very much.
- Listening: I’m loving this mellow indie number from this South Korean duo called Mukimukimanmansu, recommended by Fiza Pirani of Foreign Bodies. Also, I have no music background whatsoever, but I am enjoying this delightful documentation of transit chimes by chord interval.
- Watching: My weekend Youtube rabbit hole adventure had lead me to the discovery of Two Minute Papers, a channel featuring short, well, 2-minute videos created by a professor who reviews science-related research papers. Also, sign me up for this kind of work stress!
- Food & Drink: We made pulut kuning today to send over to the neighbours’ houses as a kenduri (feast) now that I have levelled up as Dr. Zana Fauzi!