a look back at a first memory

I went to watch Inside Out last Saturday and it’s fast becoming one of my favourite Disney-Pixar movies. The idea that behind our mood swings are cute, little characters working together to keep us sane is just so endearing; I don’t know how they came up with it! Such genius!

I don’t know why, most probably someone on dream watch was feeling nostalgic or my train of thought had malfunctioned and kept running through the night, but I woke up this morning with some vivid memories of my first few weeks in the UK. Maybe I had been thinking about the premise of Inside Out and my subconscious related Riley’s story of moving to a new city with my own move to a new country and how I handled that transition along with the emotions I’d felt during that time; whatever it was, I woke up with these particular memories and I just had to write them down. So let me take you on a trip down (long-term) memory lane to that August day back in 2001 when I got on a plane from Jakarta’s international airport and landed twenty hours later in the city of Manchester.

There are only two vivid memories when I look back at those first days after getting settled into our new home. The first was eating a bowl of sugar puffs cereals and milk because that was the only thing we had in the house and thinking “this is so yummy; they don’t make ’em like this in Indo”. The second was all five of us squished into one big bed because, even though the house had more than one bedroom, that was the only sleeping arrangement we could manage – are these what they call core memories?

But despite our less than ideal initial living condition, I really don’t remember being unhappy or upset about any of it. I guess my parents did an exceptionally good job at reassuring me and my two brothers and making us feel safe by hiding their own fears and concerns; or maybe Joy was simply the dominant one in control of my headquarters at that time. But I’m just now beginning to contemplate how difficult those first few months must’ve been for them; my mum especially because she had to deal with the language barrier on top of taking care of three young children in a strange country, practically all alone because my dad spent most of his days at the university.

this photo was taken at our first home, a few days after arriving in the UK

My first weeks of school were a blur; the one thing that I do remember were the hour-long rides with my dad and brother on long, bendy buses from our house in Cheetham Hill to the schools in Didsbury. The buses were usually full so my brother and I held on to dad’s clothes while he secured himself on a pole or the handrails hanging above. We eventually relocated to our second home, which was much closer to school; but for the first couple of months, those buses were our only route. It was also during one of these morning bus rides that my dad broke the news to my brother and I that our grandpa (mum’s dad) had passed away the night before. This is another one of those memories that I can still see clearly in my mind. I remember feeling sad, not so much for myself or for the fact that I’d never get to see him anymore, but for my mum because she must already be going through a tough time adjusting to life in England and the fact that she’d never get to attend her own father’s funeral or say a final goodbye to him in person mustn’t have been easy to swallow.

I’d like to say that Joy is still the dominant one at headquarters; after all, I consider myself an optimistic person who tries to see the best in people and the upside in any situation. But having felt and experienced more emotions in the past 13 years than my 10-year-old brain could have ever imagined, I have to admit that no one emotion is ever truly dominant or more important than the others. I think that’s the real message behind Disney-Pixar’s latest movie and I know that I’m not the only one to return from the cinema contemplating their whole life and seeing it through different filters. That is why the creators of Inside Out are real life brilliances.

a look back at a first memory

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