One month in Kuala Lumpur. It’s funny – one month out of six. It sure seemed like a big deal when I told my friends and family that I was moving across the world for six months. “Aren’t you scared?” they would ask. My response then was that I didn’t know what to be scared (or even excited about). Just take the leap and see what happens. I didn’t have the time to be nervous while I was finishing up school and work. To be honest, I didn’t think much about it before I left.
I remember coming across the concept that the older you get, the less time matters. When you’re 5 years old, 6 months is 10% of your life. But now at 22, it’s only a little over 2% of my life. And one day, 6 months will pass me by in just a sliver of a moment. However, no matter how old I am, 6 months in a new environment will always hold life-changing potential. I truly believe that. Impact is dynamic and fluctuating, always. Will I notice while I’m here that my life is changing? I doubt it. Maybe a little, but most likely not the most substantial ways. I read once that we can only understand the existence of one thing through the existence of another. Without the art of comparison, there can be no knowledge. I think this can apply to me here. I threw myself into a different culture, and I don’t think I will fully understand its impact on me until I am able to compare it to my life back in Victoria. Just as there are parts of Victoria that I have taken with me here, there will be parts of Kuala Lumpur that I will bring back home with me.
But really, what is home? This is a discussion I fall into often with my friends. I think most can agree on the well-known cliche that home is where the heart is. Before coming here, there were pieces of my heart that belonged all over the place: Seattle, San Francisco, Victoria, Madrid. These are my homes. I believe life becomes an easier feat when you can view home as dynamic as well. The founder of MSRI, Alijah Gordon, considers herself a global citizen. Not belonging to any one nation but rather to all of them. It is easier, in my opinion, to find a sense of belonging when you choose to believe this for yourself. There is no reason Kuala Lumpur couldn’t become one of my homes now too. There is this common piece of advice people give which is to get out of your comfort zone, try something new, and see what happens when you shock your system. But I believe it is also beneficial to not see space as something that makes you comfortable or uncomfortable, but simply something you enter. Something to exist in. In this way of thinking, you don’t have to wait for your comfort zone to arrive to feel a sense of accomplishment or to feel like you belong.
I think believing this is part of why after one month here, this hasn’t felt hard at all. Sure, I have awkward or uncertain moments. I have no idea how to eat with only a spoon and fork. I have not a clue what the menu I’m looking at says. I am monolingual working in a school where three + other languages are spoken frequently. When I pay with cash, I still don’t really know how much money I’m spending. Are my contributions so far worth my burdens? No idea. I’m just now getting the hang of staying hydrated. The heat depletes my energy pretty quickly here. But would I say I’m uncomfortable? No, not really. I’m just here, learning something new, practicing new behaviors and a new lifestyle. I mean that’s all it is, the “discomfort zone” is just practicing. Normal back home only feels normal because I knew it. By the end of six months, normal will be here: Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur. MSRI.
My favorite part about being here, despite a month passing already, is that time moves relatively slowly. My past few months in Victoria were overwhelming, overstimulating, and I felt consistently perplexed by the feeling that I couldn’t find the time to breathe. The combination of work and study is an unrelenting one, and I missed out on having the time to rest, read, write, and reflect. Here, I finally have the time. And I feel, to put it simply, the most at peace I’ve felt in years. Almost every night, Faaiza and I sit at our wooden dining table with our journals and books, put on some music, and write. This, of course, when we’re not napping (because the heat really is exhausting). One month in, the overall feeling I’m sitting with is that I don’t know if I love it here, but I love that I’m here. I think a lot will change in the next few months once my routine becomes normal. The newness of everything is what’s influencing my experience of KL right now, and so I’m excited to see how routine will change that experience.