On the 30th of January 2016, exactly one year ago, Quiet Mornings saw the world. My friend, Cherilyn, and I, launched our debut self-published poetry book.
Both of us have been working on this project together quietly for the past year and a half. The entire process took more than that, but it was worth the wait. The minute we ended our FYPs, we immediately started on our brainstorming. We wanted to achieve something else in the same year we graduated from university; we wanted to commemorate this milestone with something more. We endeavoured to materialise our dream of publishing a book, and we needed each other to make this project work – Cherilyn was the InDesign and illustrator expert, while I contributed more on the direction and writing.
We did everything; from writing, researching, illustrating, editing, formatting, printing, up till the launch day itself. One of the main reasons we wanted to work on this poetry project independently was to gain experience in handling the entire publishing process from start to finish, besides eliminating the amount of time needed in getting through to authorities, seeing that we had a deadline we wanted to work with. The kindest Anthony from Booktique allowed us the space to hold our book launch, @carpelibrum.sg, @thewriteseries, @bumbakes who were all godsend, sponsored goodie bags, bookmarks and cupcakes respectively, and Tysha and Iskandar who were such sporting poets, entranced the audience with their gift of words. And family and friends who came down and spurred us on with their support. Without them, Quiet Mornings would have merely been a sliver of idea reclining at the back of our minds.
Looking back now, I don’t know how I, how we, got through it. The whole process. We were two broke fresh graduates who were struggling to find a job. I lost my mother and my grandmother in the midst of it all. Cherilyn lost her grandmother too. We were a little tight in financing but we pooled whatever we had left in our banks to make this a reality. The journey was filled with so much tears, so much fears, yet, so much hope. We thought it apt that Quiet Mornings would be a culmination of our quiet fears and quiet tears in the darkness that seemed to have no end, hoping to bring with it a quiet ray of hope in mornings, a refreshing and promising new start.
There’s only so much we know about a person’s life through social media. But people often forget. As a storyteller, I’ll choose to share what goes on behind a picture. Through my story, I hope you’ll remember life is never picture perfect, that everyone has their struggles hidden behind their smiles, and that despite all our hardship, we will be gifted with ease. All we see oft-times are glossy representations of reality, the product of an endless struggle, the light at the end of a dark tunnel, the first rays of sun after the longest night, the smile after a long, hard cry.
Just hours before the launch, I was an absolute wreck. I broke down suddenly whilst packing the gift bags in my room. My knees just fell to the floor and I cried hard in quiet. It’s a feeling I can’t explain. This sharp pain that hits me like a knife stabbing my chest. I felt the missing coming back to me in waves.
Truth was, I almost gave up. I did. Ever since the departure of the dearest person to me, it took every bit of strength left in me to carry on. Plans were cancelled. We were supposed to debut our book at an event last December, but I felt I wasn’t ready. It’s only been a few weeks. I was afraid if anyone were to see me, let alone start talking to me, I’d spill. I was a glass filled to its brim. I couldn’t put myself out there just yet. How do I continue when the person I love the most left me at midsentence…
But I prayed for strength every day and told myself this: I need to finish what I started. I didn’t want to disappoint her. I needed to realize this idea which I first told mama – the first person to listen to my every little hope, whim, fear, dream. The first person I run to for a hug whenever life threw punches at me. She’d left me, on a quiet morning too. But I held the side of my bedframe and stood up. Stronger this time. Ever since her departure, I’ve been keeping myself occupied with many things. I needed to move – staying still would kill me. And all along, Allah was there to help me up and move.
During the reading, I was confident I wouldn’t crumble, although I was aware that the wound was, and still is, new. But I felt overwhelmed – He’s gifted me this opportunity and sent kind souls my way to help me accomplish this. I didn’t have to go through it alone. Each time I looked up, the crowd steadily grew. More people streamed in. My heart swelled. And then that familiar, stabbing feeling returned. I didn’t know why but at that moment, all I could think of was to search for her face in the crowd.
And so I teared. I hated being so vulnerable, but I’ve been reminded that vulnerability is a form of strength. I wasn’t tearing up because I was sad she couldn’t be there. I was in tears because I was grateful to Him. Her love kept me going. She’s the main reason I was there, standing in front of a crowd in the bookshop. A love as vast as hers was enough to light the rest of my journey. Ever since I could remember, she had held my hands, taught me to crawl, to walk, to run… and now I will fly on my own, smiling as she watched me go, from afar. And I know Allah is watching over me. Always been. All praises to Him for lifting me up and getting me through it all, gifting me with this gift which I know has been in my mother’s prayers too. For He is Al-Jabbar, The Compeller, Al-Wahhab, The Giver of All, Al-Muhaymin, The Guardian, Al-Wali, The Protecting Friend.
I choked up in the middle of a poem which I had written as a reminder to rise and grow stronger from the pain, titled ‘Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You’. And so I managed to move on. Alhamdulillah. What am I without Him? What am I without these experiences that got me to where I am today?
I’m grateful to be blessed with reasons to bleed these words, in a way that has helped me, and prayfully others too. So many more stories I’ve yet to tell. I pray He’ll provide me more of what He has gifted me, so I can be of benefit to others. And to you reading this right now, I pray the same for you too. Keep going. He will take care of your affairs. He has planned it all perfectly for you right down to every detail. Don’t worry, and more importantly, never give up. Stand up. Stand stronger. All you ever need to do is trust Him, the only One who knows you best. You know your story will turn out beautiful, because the Author has figured it all for you. Keep believing the sun will shine brighter tomorrow for you. Keep believing in mornings.
We are elated and beyond grateful to know that it is now sold out in bookstores, and we do not intend to release a new print as we no longer wish to extend our pilot poetry project. If you are still interested in getting one, I have only a select few copies with me. You can drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Here are the videos of the event taken by my lovely and patient friend, Faiezah. Enjoy watching us struggle to maintain our composure in front of a crowd – we tried, despite us internally shrieking from all the nerves. ps: you need to log in to your google account in order to watch it.