I remember when I turned 20.. actually, I don’t. My memories are blurry when I was young, solely because I choose not to care, because I was 20 and I thought I had all the time in the world. All I knew was that I was young, I was healthy, I cared only about spending time with my boyfriend (I was determined to get married to him at the age of 21), and that I have to submit my assignment to my legal professor by Monday. Mediocre, and lazy- that was me. At 20, I had no idea that at 9.9 years later I would be in the kitchen of my apartment in the heart of Los Angeles, and writing this, with you in mind. Also at 20, I went to my first indie band rock show, and that changed EVERYTHING. And so, my life lessons began..
At 21, I decided I didn’t want to settle down so soon, I wasn’t ready. I went to an entirely different direction, went into music and discovered that my whole childhood of loving music and singing wasn’t a scam, and I started writing songs of my own.
Me at 20
22 (2008) was when I learned about dignity. I walked into my first record label meeting, sitting across a man, leaning back in his corporate chair telling me I will not go far in the music industry if I
1) kept my headscarves on
2) sang my English songs.
I said no thank you, and proceeded to (with my little knowledge of Company law that I learned in school) start my own company called Yuna Room Records, with my 22 year old cousin, Wawa. We still run this company today. Also this year, I got interviewed for the very first time by my favorite music magazine at the time, Junk, by my all time fav person today, Didi Ramlan.
Young Yuna with bandmates Efry, Paan, Adil.
22 was also when I learned that quality is key. I wrote a song called Dan Sebenarnya, and was willing to let the rough recording of it live forever. Turns out I was wrong, radio wouldn’t play my music because of the crappy quality. I went to get a RM1000(about USD$200) loan from my dad, went to a professional recording studio, to record an EP so the radios will stop saying no to my song.
My bedroom in university. You can see my passion for photography and a photo of me performing my first show with a guitar on the wall, and my law notes sprawled across the table as I stay up studying.
23 (2009) I learned how to manage my financials. I received my first royalty paycheck in the mail, and when I opened it I had to sit down and made sure if it was meant for me, and remember thinking if I deserved all of it. Dan Sebenarnya EP was being downloaded almost 100,000 times a month, my first paycheck was almost RM30k. Too much. I paid off my dad’s loan, split it with my bandmates who helped recording it in the studio with me, and started my savings account and learned how to pay tax. I also graduated from legal studies this year.
With friends from law school. Already you can tell I’m out of place.
24 (2010) I learned that even if I thought I worked really hard for something, second place is a good place to be. I competed in my first national tv music award show performing my song, and lost to a very talented young man who I am now close friends with Aizat Amdan. Sometimes you have to know that some things are just not meant for you. That night, I didn’t get an award, but I got a wonderful friend that I can depend on forever. 2 years later, I got an award that was taken away from me, but because of this incident, I had already learned how to not care so much about awards. Awards do not define you. I also graduated this year, earning my degree in legal studies. Finally!
25. (2011) I learned to take a leap of faith. I went to America with a small bag and a big dream. I was a shy foreigner, I was alone and I was a little bit scared. But, I knew that if I don’t start talking, I will not go anywhere. Being awkward and shy is a waste of time, I learned. The more you want to talk to people, the more respectful you are, the more you will learn.
I learned that you are the only person who can sabotage yourself. When people say you can’t, the only person who can prove them wrong is yourself.
Pharell and I, 2011.
My very first apartment in Los Angeles. I remember every dollar i made from work was to pay for this rent.. I ate a lot of instant noodles and shopped at dollar stores. My furnitures (and one piano that I still have) were all hand-me-downs from my friend, Niles (now a big time DJ, KSHMR!)
26. (2012) I learned how to travel and perform at the same time. I was in different cities everyday, performing every night. Something I didn’t know I could do. I saw people from all races showing up at my show, a diversity and I learned to loved them all, something I didn’t know existed. All my ignorance and stereotypes melted away just from traveling across America. I also learned about loyalty, and the meaning of friendship. Didi, Faiz, Lincoln formed this experience together with me and I will never forget it.
Faiz, Didi and Lincoln, us on the road, across the country for a month in 2012.
27.(2013) I learned about the REAL treasures in life. That your parents are the true treasure that you will never find anywhere else, at any point of your life. That breaking their hearts is never an option for as long as you live.
My last moments with my late grandfather. I miss him so much.
28.(2014) I learned that money is not everything. You can make millions, but you can’t buy happiness. Money will not save lives. I tried my best to save my uncle or my grandfather from their sickness with whatever money I had, and I lost this battle. God saves lives, and he takes them at His will. You can plan, but He is the best planner.
I learned that fame is not everything. You can have millions of followers, a few friends who thinks you’re awesome, but you can still feel very alone. Being liked, or dislike, does not give you infinite happiness. I also learned the horrible truth that for some, fame and money is everything.Time is the best gift you can give to your loved ones.
I learned that physical beauty of a person means nothing. We are all flawed. I am flawed. I learned how to see people’s hearts and hoping that my heart is worth seeing. I learned that being in love is not everything. I learned how to piece myself back together slowly after someone has broken every fragile part of me. I learned that the person you spend your time with can either bring the best out of you, or unleash a monster inside of you. People come into your life to teach you valuable lessons, and you have to learn from it. I learned that if you lose someone, it doesn’t mean its because you’re not worth it. It just means you’re growing. How you rise above this, will be your life’s best victory.
29,(2015-today) this is my favorite year. I learned to let go, and learned to realize that if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love someone else. I learned that I was not entirely healthy, and decided to take care of myself better before it’s too late.
I learned that you can find love in the calmness of being in someone’s presence. Never disrupt that calmness. ‘Don’t be an idiot’, I tell myself, ‘Don’t screw this up!’
I learned to stop caring what people have to say about me, because of the simple reason being- they have no clue what’s going on. They don’t deserve a space in my thought process. I learned about having the courage to be me. I learned the hard way, that there are givers, and takers. There are people who are here to take advantage of me and use me, and I have to walk away from them. I learned to shut doors to people who sees life in a negative way without any second guesses. I learned how to say no when people try to take away the best qualities that I’ve taken all these years to shape. I learned how to sever ties with people who drain my energy. I learned how to fight for my identity. I learned how to fight for my life and the lives of people that I care about. Most importantly, after all these years of thinking I should be this and that, I want this, I want that, .. blablabla. I learned one important thing - its not about me. It’s about how can I contribute to make the world a better place.
Al-fatihah for Aina.
On my 30th birthday, I don’t need gifts. I just wish for my young fans to not waste their time. Know that your time is yours, but it’s not yours. If you are in your 20′s, spend your time wisely. Go have fun, you’re young, but don’t forget to contribute your energy, you’re young. Time flies, but take your time learning. Make mistakes, but learn from them. Don’t try to grow up too fast, stay in your zone and be present as much as you can. Remember, you are so much more than what people say about you. People rush you into doing things.. but ask yourself what do YOU want? Go and live life fully, learn as much as you can. Achieve greatness and bring out greatness in others as well. Be aware of whats happening in the world, not just yours. Learn to see whats on the other side, and try not to settle in what your setup has been set up for you.
Be woke. Be intelligent. Be there for the people who need you. Keep your head up and be confident, but know when to keep your head down and be humble. Never underestimate what your heart tells you. It’s okay to be wrong, its okay to fail and know that you are flawed, and life will prove this to you again and again. Know that you will rise, again and again. Being flawless comes after you learned that you can accept your flaws and not giving up doing something beautiful for the world.
Happy birthday to me and to you, here’s to us, who will see today as Day 1."
14th November 2016