The Tunnel

by shz

Jenny: Studying is hard and boring. Teaching is hard and boring. So, what you’re telling me is to be bored, and then bored, and finally bored again, but this time for the rest of my life? This whole stupid country is bored! There’s no life in it, or color, or fun! It’s probably just as well the Russians are going to drop a nuclear bomb on us any day now. So my choice is to do something hard and boring, or to marry my… Jew, and go to Paris and Rome and listen to jazz, and read, and eat good food in nice restaurants, and have fun! It’s not enough to educate us anymore Ms. Walters. You’ve got to tell us why you’re doing it.

An Education (2009).

A little less than a year ago, I wrote to Anna.

Anna was somehow lost in the dark, wondering what to do with herself as at that time she just decided to close her beloved photography studio. I could only imagine how terrible it must have felt to close down something that probably  had been symbolizing or probably defined who she was. She didn’t know what else to do and had been talking about continuing her studies which she had abandoned or somehow didn’t manage to finish, twice, since her SPM. So I decided to give her a little push, I wrote to her and tell her everything she needed to hear, not what I assumed she wanted to hear. And then she wrote this. Realizing your flaw is one thing; admitting to the world is pure bravery. As for now, alhamdulillah, she is on her journey for a degree at KLIUC and I really hope she’ll finish it successfully.

Today I accidentally dug up my old email. It’s amazing how internet can trace back your past life, especially if you maintain your original email long enough. Back in Oxford, I wrote a lot of emails to my mother. Yes, my mother, the one I always had issues with. It takes accidental moments like this to realize how much I owe whatever I have now to her. She was the only person I wrote about my struggles as a student to. It was the cowardice in me, unlike Anna, that I never wrote in my blog (I was already blogging then) how lost and stuck I was back there. One email in particular made me choke for tears because I remembered how it felt. How terrible it felt:

Sunday, May 15th 2005.

Sorry (I wish there is another word)

Dear Ma.

I went out today.

And I saw this beautiful couple, probably in their late 50s walking in the arms of each other. They smiled and then he kissed her forehead. And she smiled again. They probably just met and found love in each other or probably have been like that for the longest time. But it was nice to witness some happiness once in a while when I’m out.

I hate coming back to my flat now. Everytime I approach my room, it constantly reminds me of my failures. My failure in taking life seriously, my failure with my relationship, with my studies and everything that can promise my future. It devastates me, pains me and drives me nuts. I try to turn to Allah everytime I have these feelings, with hope that Allah will grant me a peace of mind. I read the Quran, perform solat hajat, but I might do it wrongly. I can’t rely on anybody here Ma. I only have myself, and Allah. I patiently wait for something good to happen, with a  hope that in this suffering a hikmah will come along.

Maybe that is not enough.

So I write to you. In hope that talking to my mother can at least sooth me down. It helps a lot letting you know how I feel. And you give the best advises in the world. And there can be nothing bad could come out of a good mother, I guess.

I can’t keep on crying like this anymore. It’s damaging me. A long-term damage. I don’t want to be a sad girl. An angry, disappointing, negative girl. I want to be happy again, when things are alright and happiness is the regular feelings in my heart. I wish one day it will be again. Hopefully.

I don’t have any good excuse for the extension I have to do for my project. Abah has provided it all. Even that I have to work to sustain my life here, I still consider Abah provided a good base for me. A comfortable place to live, reliable computer, laptop, basic needs, advises and concerns, help and support. I am just so mad at myself that after all that luxuries, I still fail to deliver excellently. I have no reasons at all but to blame totally on myself. I was wrong. Probably on how I worked, how I prioritized things, or how I organized myself. It’s frustrating to keep looking around in my room and be reminded how unsuitable of me to fail. All I see in myself is disgrace, but I truly hope you and Abah doesn’t see the same way.

I guess this is my flaw. I was wrong when I thought I am doing architecture to do my parents a favour. So that they’re happy and get what they wanted out of their child. Like people said, intention is important. I have to after this, work for my own benefit and get this degree for me, myself. Not for you nor Abah. Maybe that’s a start. A clean, right way to start over again.

Maybe this is my lacking. Unlike some other people who are just gifted and talented, who do it so effortlessly and managed to get good results. Maybe I’m not fortunate enough, not lucky enough. Although in life, I refuse to believe that there is such thing as talent. Because I hate to believe that some people are just plain lucky. But I guess now there is such thing, such people. And the rest of us like me just have to work harder.

Nothing drives me to do architecture. My passion faded everytime I learn that I fail to be good at it, everytime that I seemed to be doing it wrongly. Nobody compliments me, nobody says that I am good at it and i was just demotivated about everything there is about architecture. I can’t draw plan properly, I still find it hard to imagine three-dimensionally, and still struggles to predict if the height of a room is 3 metres or 4 and a half. I even have to seek for a Abah to ask whether my building is too big or not! It’s sad Ma. Really, really is. These are the basics and even the basics is hard for me to absorb.

I don’t regret it however. I guess one can never learn if one doesn’t make a mistake. Although it damages people you love, it’s a bitter truth about my life. InsyAllah, I believe one day I will look upon this worst time of mine, reflect and be thankful about it. Life is not perfect, and I am not either. A bump on a road apparently is a must.

I’m sorry.


I guess when I decided to write to Anna, even though I never met her personally in my life, or even know her good enough to lecture her like I did, it’s because of this. Because I know how it felt and how important it is not to give up. Because I can totally relate and I wished she’d be curious enough to see what her life can be once she manages to cross over this horrid side. Because everything happened for reasons and it can’t be true or said enough that Allah knows better. It was actually that extension I was asked to do, and made me feel like a big fat loser that consequently got me registered.

That was then.  It’s not that I’m terribly successful now, but I have moved on. I have progressed. I crossed over. I can easily tell whether the floor to ceiling height of a room is 3 metres or 4.5 metres high. I can now not only draw floor plans properly, I can even check others’ floor plans drawn correctly or not. Of course I can visualize three-dimensionally, if you give me a bit of time for that. And no, I don’t have to ask Abah if the building’s too massive-I can tell, because it all depends. And yes, I don’t think Abah can be any prouder. He is so proud it gets really embarrassing everytime he introduces me as his project architect cum daughter. He just have to mention the word “daughter”.

To those in midst of struggling, the light should be there soon. Keep the faith, pray to God or watch An Education.