Diary of a Good Immigrant

I’ve been meaning to blog more and it feels as though now is an extraordinary time for me, for the world around me. So let’s go. Note form, Chok-style, as always.

1. Reasons to be cheerful: The Good Immigrant seems to be getting some fantastic attention. Next week is the official launch. What will “the public” think? What will they say? Where am I in this? My landscape is changing.

2. It’s difficult. Reading out loud, performing snippets from my essay. Performing it. If I’m too angry who will listen? If I don’t cater my performance to the specific audience, who will listen? Should I sound hip and ballsy for the young, liberals? Poetic, earnest and wounded, vulnerable and unthreatening yet incisive, to the literature festival crowd? Should I use my “white person voice” and if so, which one? American accent to sound accessible and sunny, colonial English to sound educated, neutral as I can make it English to sound not a wanker, Asian, because that’s what some people expect. Asian, because that’s what I am and when I speak like a Malaysian to Malaysians, I feel so much happier. But I didn’t write this essay in Malaysian English. I wrote it with some weird white hat on.

3. Continually talking about racism, specifically, the racism us invisible, silent, pale yellow people experience, is like shouting from the rooftops, YOOHOO! EVERYONE! I FEEL LIKE I OUGHT TO BE GIVEN THE ATTENTION DUE TO VICTIMS, BUT I’M NOT A VICTIM, BUT I AM etc. PLEASE DON’T PHOTOGRAPH ME GRINNING ABOUT MY OPEN WOUNDS! BUT PLEASE TAKE NOTE THAT RACISM IS VIOLENT AND THAT I HAVE VERY OPEN, VERY FRESH, WOUNDS. TRAUMA, EVEN. BUT I’M NOT FUCKED UP. LOVE ME, PLEASE. I’M DIFFERENT BUT THE SAME BUT AAAAAH. THANK YOU! Yes, so, smiling and talking in complete sentences about racial inequality, systemic racism, whatever you want to call it to make it sound more palatable than plain old racism, in public, is painful. Why do it if it’s so painful? Well yeah, I could just shut up and pretend I’m white until I’m reminded, sharpish.

4. So on Friday, after completing Matt Haig’s book, Reasons to Stay Alive, I concluded: I need to own my current bout of anxiety and depression. Yes, I suffer from an anxiety disorder. Yes, I suffer from depression. I haven’t felt the need for medical intervention for anxiety for over three years, and I haven’t had a breakdown for longer than that. But now?

I panicked all the way to the GPs. Each step cost me. My chest was tight. I am just walking down the street. It’s going to be ok. This is a positive step. Ow. Ow. Ow. So much crying and my headache was blinding.

I have so many fears about never fitting in. I am so angry that I have mental health illnesses. Really? On top of being female, yellow, and culturally mixed up, I have to deal with this? I look at couples who look like each other. Mirroring each other. And I feel despair. Not that I’m advocating happy-ever-afterness ala the ridiculous normative myth. I am looking for groundedness. Home. Safety. Acceptance. The objectification of yellow women makes it tricky. I feel that I’m seen as the girl you don’t “marry”. The holiday and not the life. It hurts.

5. Pain. Having worked on Bryony Kimmings’ cancer musical R&D at the very start, I feel where I didn’t fear cancer, I do now. Especially with my recent run ins with the NHS and how I’ve heard about the system pretty much collapsing under the strain. Managing a massive beast that is public health is an immense task. I wish I had more faith in this country in terms of the culture behind getting things done.

6. So I am on day 2 of anti-depressants. Let’s see what happens.

7. Cindy Gallop is tremendous.

8. I don’t know if people support me or support the causes I support, until they tell me or show me. Actions speak louder than words. My relationship is imploding and I do not have any strength left. I barely have energy to speak these days – the battery pack is weak and it runs out quickly. Bursts of energy are possible if I conserve and spend wisely. Planning and deciding how I distribute my energy takes energy. I do not really have a job where I can not go to work and it be ok.

Every moment I am not spending on my career means it’s MY FAULT that I don’t have the career I want. Kinda. It takes a lot to keep sharp, to line things up, to stay open and ready for the rare opportunities that come along. How the hell does anyone do this? Oh, that’s right. Money. Bloodymindedness. Money and privilege and people who will champion you.

I don’t see others like me out there. Yellow. Female. I have tentatively approached women of other colours. This didn’t work. I haven’t found the confidence – as if that is something you find, like a fiver, in your jeans pocket – to push. I don’t have the energy (yet) to make more space for myself.

I have not found a space for myself and I don’t think I will. I have to use energy to make this. It will not be easy. I hope it will be pleasurable. Follow curiosity and not ambition.

9. People of colour. Please support each other ACROSS colours. It’s a human rights thing. It’s a social justice thing. It’s the right thing to do. You know what it’s like to be shat on. Don’t shit on each other. I’m not saying we need to hold hands and share food over some campfire. I’m saying, don’t be dicks about being cool. Possessive over anti-racism progress made? Are ye kidding?

10. I have a new mattress arriving. Sleep. Rest. Tomorrow is bringing a fresh wave of publicity. How will the writing side of my life affect the acting side of my life? There are directors and writers who don’t want to work with me because I ask questions, and there are those who hire me to ask questions. And heck, I haven’t done very much to get my *actual* writing published, the creative stuff, the stuff that makes me smile. I had been thinking, ha, who is going to help me sell this stuff? What do you even call it? (A: Poetic text) How do you perform it if it is performative text but on the page? Do I want more ladders to climb?

A: Follow your curiosity. Have faith in the person you are. Some days I’ve felt that everything is hopeless: racism can’t be solved, ever. Some days, despite everything, I feel like everything is going to be ok.

PS – Which of my friends will remain?


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