There have probably been too many times I’ve…

There have probably been too many times I’ve wished it were easier. I’m not even sure if I’m the one making it difficult. When all these things conspire to remind you of the same few things, over and over again, it’s hard to believe that it’s really just all about you.

I want to run away. Get away, and out of this city. I ran for four days and now I’m back. We run and we run and we end up always at the same beginning. Where does it start? How does it start? The same old stories, all the time. Everything is normal till a point — bam! It hits you incredibly, like — I’d like to say, like bricks or a train, but this is nowhere near as sudden and therefore twice as painful.

There was a time when I would have been upset for far longer. Now I’m just tired, and I want it all to end. I want it to be as simple as it never has been, I would like to not have to worry, I would like not to have to deal with this, and this is a lot of teenage angst, the “why me”s and the “why not”s, and in truth I feel like a twelve-year old again. But I would just like this to end. Right now.


454: 吹起吹起风里梦

To say that I am a bit upset is quite an understatement. It might have been easier if we knew, at the beginning, that at the end of the day, all that is left is the wind in the pines.

After all this time, nothing has changed.

453: you only want the ones that you can’t get

Aren’t the days always better when you think you will never have them again? Lately as I look through my documents and look out of the window through the dark gloomy rain, I think about the sunshine in California and I really miss America. But like Europe, I think I miss what it represents, those days of our lives.

It would be nice, I think, to go on another holiday. Sometimes I think about whether I want summer and sunshine or cold winds all around wrapped up in jackets and hearts warm and fuzzy (“cold weather, warm hearts”! Somebody told me). But anywhere’s great if I’m not here.

451: long way home

I always dreamed at that some point in time, I would get to take the road below. That I would either drive along it, come across it, get to take a picture like it. I spent my days in California winding up and down those mountains, camera in hand, waiting for the moment this vista would appear. As it turned out, it didn’t, and I was driving more than I thought I would.

I always dreamed that at some point in time, I would get to take a road trip. Drive along the endless roads, windows wound down, the wind in your hair. Feeling young. (I know I make too much fuss about this sentiment and that people are tired of hearing about it, especially when there was a time when I was all like, “fuck this ‘把握青春‘ shit”, but funny how time flies, and funny how things change, huh?) As it turns out, the windows were closed much of the time. The sun was crazy hot and I got sunburnt through the open roof. I stuck my camera out the top and hoped it wouldn’t get whipped away as we wound up the mountain. We started off listening to the Eagles (“Take It Easy” near Winslow, Arizona — always a dream) but slowly it became cheesy 90s pop music and the nostalgic songs of our childhood. Sugar Ray, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Texas. The New Radicals. Spice Girls. And while we drove into Los Angeles, a mini karaoke session, with 张惠妹 in the air.

The country is so different from anything I’m used to, simply because it is so big and everything I imagine can be there will be there. There is everything and nothing. There are miles and miles of nothing. The rocks cave in and lean towards the highway like lovers. They are only restrained by nets. The streets in the city are grids, and sometimes they cage people in, walking round and round in circles with nowhere else to go. Round the block and you’re back where you began. You go somewhere by not going anywhere at all. There are endless pancakes and burgers and limitless views and sprawling metropolises to see if you climb high enough. The clouds are fluffy and white and always have a silver lining. You can always see the storms from a distance. Funny how this land of plenty keeps pushing against the debt ceiling. The debates played on and on in the motels at night.

Comfort is sometimes such an unnecessary thing and it always needs to be earned. I drove an SUV. I drove on the wrong side on the road. I forgot, after a while, which side was right. I was confused, just like how it was when I first stepped into Holland. I nearly got knocked down looking the wrong way for traffic, as I did before. But this time, not on foot, not on a bicycle, where the repercussions are few. At worst, it would have been a broken arm and a few scrapes. (Been there, done that.) But here it was a car, and the cars are always speeding and always enormous. The highways are freeways and are not always free. The roads go on forever and there aren’t always lights. In the darkness, we must somehow find our way. When the route loses itself in the distance, sometimes we begin to cry. But we get home safe, and so all is fine.

The truth is, dreams are dreams, and the reality is sometimes better.

450: after the thrill is gone

Since I’m trying to get back into the habit I might as well take advantage of it while I can. The highlight of my day came early in the morning (funny how the rest of it just pales in comparison soon after) when she told me, “wah you are really a thinker and this is why I love you.” There was nothing I could have said to that, only that I felt really happy (and slightly embarrassed). K called me on it the other day when he said, “you’re not used to receiving compliments, are you,” which surprised him (and me) and left me a bit bewildered for a short second. But ah well.

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449: half the distance takes you twice as long

Things I never imagined I would admit to:

too many things, most of which are too private to name.

Which means, at the end of the day, that I would never admit to them. Because if I did, I would, right? But I haven’t, and so I wouldn’t. (I am really the queen of such self-defeating logic…) It’s rapidly approaching that time of year, when everything seems to coalesce into one big time-bomb, waiting for me to set it off. I feel like Something Big will happen to me soon, and whether or not it’s for the better, nobody knows (which is what I always say, is it not? I get tired of it, sometimes, too) — whenever summer approaches, I feel unreasonably happy. I don’t know if it’s anything in particular; mostly I just recall the joy I felt at the coming of spring, the promise of summer barbecues, summer sun, the music festivals, the way I was so relieved winter was over and the snow was out, coming home and seeing the first person that I saw … and everything in between. I picked out all the good parts of that year and stashed it into my summer memories, ready to be called up whenever I wanted, whenever July came crashing towards me.

And it has. Suddenly it’s June. And then I also feel unreasonably sad, because everything has a flip side. Where does all the time go? (Another question I ask a lot.) It seems like half my time is spent lamenting the passing of time. But these days I have less and less time, and true to form, I spend my time wasting time rather than doing anything… lately it’s such a privilege to waste time, you know? Lately I just had one of the best weekends in a while. I feel anxious not to ascribe to it anything more important than there actually is, but on hindsight it was wonderful because it allowed me to not think about anything. (Okay, but then again, I lie, because all these thoughts were running through my head…) But I’m not used to not thinking about anything, and every step of the way I can’t help it. The best I can do is to push the thoughts aside — but by then, it’s too late. I find myself drawing myself into a circle. That too terrifies me.

What do you do when you so badly want to make sense of your life? Sometimes, it is what it is, right? (like that age-old sentiment: “It’s just you and me  — if it is love, so let it be”) One cannot compartmentalise. Unlike what I said a few years ago, nothing is ever as easy as Before, After and During. Though increasingly it seems it is the only way we measure anything, just because there are so few other indicators. I cannot put things into a box and shut them away.

There was a time when I wrote that nobody knew who I was talking about. I always imagined that many years later as I tracked back to look at my old posts I would be the only one with that secret knowledge. As it turns out, even I can’t remember who I was writing about, some of the time. But these days the people get fewer and fewer, though it seems our lives get more and more complicated. Or maybe we let so few people into our lives at any one point in time, that any more (and any more new developments) complicate matters instantly. (Wow, this post is totally incoherent.)

I remembered what I did today, driving along the highway (I’m always driving along highways) — the car is flying, my mind is empty, The Eagles are playing. Take it easy, they say, one of my favourite songs. Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.

448: battle ready

Every morning, I get up at 8am. This used to be unthinkable; lately people tell me it’s a luxury. I don’t have to brave the sun and rain in my heels to get to the trains; I am a spoilt child through and through, and my mother drives me there, for all of two minutes. Sometimes she feels charitable and I get driven all the way there. I am aware this is not normal. But nothing is normal lately.

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446: remember 2010

The question one inevitably asks is — how did it come to this? Was it worth all of it, and how it came about? How did you even get here, and how were your thought processes? Did you even think it through at all? These are questions that zoom through your mind on a cloudy Friday night, lying on the ground staring at the sky. The sky offers no answers. Eventually we must still solve the puzzles ourselves. And still, the question is — why?

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445: the sun in your eyes makes all of the lies worth believing

I feel like this December hasn’t really been here for me. Or maybe I haven’t really been here this December. The days after the exams passed in a whirl, and I haven’t actually gone on a holiday in December itself for a few years. (Well, technically two years ago I was in London, but…) This year the Christmas festivity seems a bit lacking. I haven’t feasted much, I escaped from the Christmas games this year to go buy coffee, I feel like I went to Korea and came back, and suddenly it’s Christmas. Not to mention everything in between…

In any case, like I posted earlier somewhere else, Seoul is a bit underwhelming. I suppose I went primarily to visit my friends, but I didn’t get to see much of them either. It was not unbearably cold, and I sort of missed the frozen toes (somewhat). Part of me rejoices in being cold, though the dry skin was a bit unpleasant. I missed the little things — hot soup and steaming tea and cold hands, sniffly noses (just my sinus), huddling up in a cafe looking down at the streets, people watching, exploring neighbourhoods. I mean, I’d explore neighbourhoods any time of the year, but I suppose I like winter just because I don’t get it here. In any case, I felt a bit displaced. Like I didn’t really belong anywhere, and I didn’t know what to do. It was the first time I’d felt this way, probably because at times I felt completely helpless. In Western countries you’re clearly a foreigner, and everyone automatically switches on foreigner-mode with you. They reply you in English because it’s the most likely language you (and they) will speak. I can survive in most other Asian countries, because I can read most of the signs. In Seoul, I was neither here nor there, a foreigner and yet not. A foreigner was not like me — she didn’t have black eyes and black hair, nor was it so patently un-obvious that she did not speak Korean. But I couldn’t understand most of it, and I couldn’t read all of it. When I tried to go shopping I was at a loss as to which language to begin speaking. English? Chinese? Japanese? Most of the time I zoomed through restaurant menus figuring out the katakana, only to realise the owner spoke Chinese. English, my first weapon of choice, was virtually useless. I felt vaguely handicapped. Imagine my sigh of relief when, at Hongdae one night looking for a club to go to, I finally heard an American accent drifting in my direction. It sounds a bit warped to me now.

But other than that, some places were pretty nice, and seemed like it merited more exploring. Apgujeong, even though I had no money. But there were cool cafes and little bookstores with planners in all shapes and sizes, random postcards and stickers (the Shimokita kind of neighbourhood, except five times more expensive). Hongdae, with its art-school vibe and pulsating clubs and quirky indie shops in the afternoon. I’m sure there’s more hiding somewhere, underneath the grey concrete that lines the Han river. I know, I sound so unenthusiastic. It really wasn’t that bad. But I think somehow I’ve lost my travelogue writing urge. Or rather, the spirit is willing (but the body is weak). What words? There are few words these days that come to me. Hmmmm.

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443: lunchtime jukebox

This is a little talk, I guess, about food.

It sounds funny, but it’s also about control. For me the concepts of food and control are kind of bound up. Because control means self-control, the kind where you have to stop yourself from peeking in the fridge at 3am to find something to eat, but it’s also about the amount of control you have over your life. What you want to do. What you want to eat. What you are. What you want to be. It goes without saying that most people feel good that they’re in control — of something. That they don’t feel like they’re just drifting along, carried away by some trend or another, only to find themselves washed up at the end. Because it is a scary thing, to be washed up. Hung out to dry. Helpless. One of my greatest fears is waking up one day not knowing how on earth I became what I was, and knowing that it is too late to change it. But I digress.

I talked about this because food in my house is not my own. As such, it directly impinges on the amount of control I feel I have over my life. I’ve noticed a pattern, since I came home from overseas. It doesn’t work for everybody, since I was one of the few who lost weight when I was away from home. But yet, a large part of it was due to circumstances (everyone thinks it is just about emotional upheavals, but there was also the fact that I was off steroids for a year…). A larger part, however, was being in control of your own life. Our parents think we will starve while overseas. But the cooking philosophy is so different. Perhaps student cooking is really all about subsistence food, but we cooked up yummy meals all the same, and while we sometimes resorted to packaged or canned foods, a large part of the ingredients were fresh. At least for me, little of it was processed, since my number-one killer supper food (Maggi Mee) was so expensive that I never ate it all that often. Beer was cheap, and so I never drank soft drinks (for a year! Without knowing!). When it came down to it, there were really only these few foods I didn’t mind living on. It was always mushrooms, spinach, tofu, potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, salmon (sometimes, if I was feeling rich), chicken breast, bacon, eggs, and courgette. In different variations. I made coq au vin once. I drank minimal coffee (there was no need to wake up on time). I ate when I was hungry and I didn’t when I was not. When I wanted to eat something, I had to cook it. When there was no food, I had to buy it. And yet, filled with an empty refrigerator most of the time, I always felt like I knew what I wanted to eat, what I had to cook, and whatever was in the fridge could be turned into something edible, comforting, warm.

Cut to the present date, where it’s 2.30am and I’m standing in my kitchen in Singapore. My refrigerator is never empty (ever). My larder is always filled. There is always something to drink, a ton of chocolate in different flavours and from various countries, blah blah. But there is nothing to eat. There is nothing I want to eat. Because none of it is mine. I feel constrained by the fact that none of this is my choice. How strange could it be that I am standing in front of a cupboard full of food, thinking that there is nothing to eat? But it is possible. Everything in there is canned, dried, a snack, some sauce or another. Nothing seemed appetising; everything was processed. As I realised how much I did without when I was overseas, the thought about control drifted back into my mind. That was it, you see, that I had no control over what I was buying, and therefore I couldn’t control what I could eat. I thought about eating a block of tofu for lunch once, just cold, with soya sauce and bonito flakes. It sounded clean and healthy (and probably gross to everyone else). I dreamt about it for ages. But there was no tofu in the house. There would be none still, if I didn’t go out and buy it. And yes, of course I could go out and buy it. And perhaps it begins to sound like I’m making excuses for myself. But I have no time. Why would I go all the way just to buy a block of tofu? And how weird is it to buy groceries for one, when there are five of us? It seems rebellious to even try, in a strange sort of way. A bit anti-establishment. Like I was opting out of some programme, or some community. Everything seems planned, and my job is to fit in somewhere. Even my mealtimes are not my own.

As one comes back to a house which is not truly one’s own, one has to live by whatever rules were set by those who came before. I do not own this house, nor the life I live within it (家有家规, they always say). When previously I would have breakfast at whatever time I woke up, or have lunch only when I felt hungry, the rest of my time in Singapore has been an endless repeat of “It’s already 1pm, why are you not eating?” (and then, if you wanted not to eat, as sure as the snooze button, the increasingly not-so-friendly family voice would pop up every 5 minutes to repeat the same question till you caved in and ate). It disorients me a little, which is why I prefer to stay out most of the time, where at least I can control my mealtimes, if not my food.

Isn’t it all a bit unnecessary, this musing? But the fact remains that I am still hungry, and there is a kitchen full of food, and yet there is nothing for me to eat.

442: on the edge

Sometimes I still feel, even with all this change, there is room to love this country.

It’s the same all over, isn’t it? You stand somewhere, look at the sunsets. How things have changed. “Better” or “worse” are just paradigms — sometimes, “different” will suffice. Yet, when you stand at the edge, I like to think that sometimes, we still live in a country that is still trying to find itself. Sometimes I complain it changes too fast, and then I realise we have still more time to change, and change again. How long can our history be? A hundred years later, who knows, maybe our memories will still be here, as they were for our forefathers.

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440: too much damn glass

It seemed … a little strange, even to my little Singaporean mind.

(We have such a tendency to label ourselves “little”, as if by sheer geographical size we could define our entire personalities. That being in a small country meant your mind was small. Yet such small minds breed a heavy air of self-deception, conning us into believing we have smaller egos. But we don’t, and the auntie walking through the wet market in the early morning who gets brushed aside by some maid buying vegetables before her will tell you exactly what I mean. We do not think we are little at all.)

When I went to Europe I was awed, as I always am whenever faced with a pile of history. The weight of years was never something I could ever comprehend, or perhaps it just had something to do with astronomical numbers. It puzzled me, whenever I looked at a church, a square, (yet) another church, (yet) another palace, how old it all was. How similar it all was, bound by age and neglect. People respected their buildings, and were proud of them. Centuries of use did not diminish a place’s value, nor did anyone mind the black-streaked stone, the dusty marble floors. The statues and paintings are painstakingly restored, the light darting through the stained-glass windows, casting shadows when there should be none. In those hidden corners somebody is praying, whispering quietly, admiring something or another, taking a picture or four hundred.

How can something last so long? The concept was as foreign to me as it was to my other friends, and for more than once in my life I wished my country had a history. Not a short, measly, self-made one, but a long incomprehensible history, filled with bloodied wars and revolutions and teeming with ideals I did not have to fight for to have. Where liberty was earned by my ancestors and not thrown away the moment it was retrieved. Not somewhere where the national anthem rings out pointlessly every morning, 7.20am sharp, as every school-going child will tell you. I wanted to see it for myself, the weight of our past, even if it hung over the sky like a bomb waiting to explode. The past is a bomb waiting to explode. Only — someone must want to drop it. My foreign-placed self wanted a place where the past rang out, where it was embraced. It was so much easier to see when you were outside of Singapore. I wanted a place where the past was not whitewashed.

Did you ever notice it? How every old building in Singapore is painted white, like the ancient sculptures. Painted to look new, austere, clean. “Old” is a dirty word in Singapore. “Old” means obsolete, useless, good for irrelevant things, like the old aunties and uncles who totter up and down the fast food aisles and the hawker centres serving food, cleaning plates, wiping tables. Things young people should be doing. Not things one should do after a lifetime of back-breaking work. Not after a lifetime of youth, where life is fast and always in the fast lane. “Old” means slow. But people don’t die young these days, and what is “old” must become new. The shophouses are repainted. The concert halls are repainted. The hawker centres, the markets, those little pockets of life, are hauled up and renovated. The “old” Parliament House does not look old at all, just as the new Parliament House is nowhere near “new”. You are not an old person, as you should rightly be; you are not elderly. You are a “senior citizen”, made instantly relevant by a conspicuous lack of reference to your age.

It was the reverse reaction, when my Austrian friends came to Singapore. They were awed by how developed this country was, and how it could have been done in such a short time. She asked how old Singapore was. My nationally-educated mind told her that we were forty-five. “In Europe,” Sandra said, “forty-five years is nothing.” And of course it was, once I thought about it. How else should it have been? In a continent where wars last a hundred years, and universities have been standing for a thousand, our independence is a short blip in the annals of time. A footnote in their history books, or maybe not even then. Yet I was amazed that they were amazed, for I had been so in awe of the idea of history that it had never occurred to me that someone else might find it mind-blowing for an entire country to be built to proportion in the length of time it took to fight a war. For a history to form. It is true. “Old” does indeed mean slow. When you have been around for so long, there is no need to rush. There are no more battles to win, no more dreams to conquer. It seems like a simple revelation now, that someone could be stunned by speed just as I was awed by time. But as I was walking along Boat Quay looking at the Fullerton Hotel telling them that it used to be the Post Office, the epiphany blew my mind.

Yet underneath all this the past is lurking. Where is our history? It must be hidden somewhere, in all the old people, in the old buildings. In the five-foot ways of Chinatown and the metal plaques along Orchard Road, which predictably are no longer there, that nostalgic mark of our history, replaced with lighted glass montrosities that will not last even five years. New things spring up too quickly even as we forget the old things. Perhaps it will get better, after a century or two, or five. Where the rush to make things new will calm down and life rolls on slower and statelier, when people realise that things must last long for others to remember. The Fullerton was a post office. Why don’t post offices look like that anymore? Why don’t churches give us something to visit or remember? Instead they are made of glass, which will be clouded by time and easily knocked down with a wrecking ball. Our highest court sits in a spaceship; extraterrestrial, a different world altogether. The dome is also made of glass. Every shopping centre in Singapore has a glass facade with blinking lights. There is so much damn glass in this country we could rival Murano.

It hurts me, sometimes. That it is not reinvention, but erasure. Things are built to be easily erasable. Where mistakes are easily rectified, and so it is so much easier to build mistakes. You would spend your lifetime designing a building if you wanted it to stand for a few hundred years. In our country even stone bridges collapse because they are built too quickly. It hurts too, sometimes, to think of how it must also have been like, for those long incomprehensible histories. It must have been the same, with the same pointless impermanent architecture, with the same indignant protests. Because what you know is what you remember, and who knows what else has already been forgotten.

439: phuketeering

Life has… not been great. I’m tired out, but I can’t get to sleep till the sun rises. My head is in a mess all the time. Waking up early is so hard, but I don’t sleep in the day either. I don’t understand how I function, if at all. It may have something to do with the endless work that just keeps coming. How am I going to survive working life like this, when I balk at the prospect of four assignments in one week?

In between then and now, my friends from Austria came to visit. Then they left, and as they left my laptop decided to crash (again). As a testament to the impermanency of life, etc, because now I have nothing and one year later all the iPod ripping software is not freeware anymore. They offer you a 100-file trial. It may not be much, but over one year I had about a thousand songs. And in the ten years before that (before my laptop crashed and I left my iPod on the plane back from Holland), I had about ten thousand. A thousand a year seems correct. But it was ten years’ worth of music. Yes, I’m still sore. Because now I don’t even know what I don’t remember.

Also, I went to Phuket. It was one of the nicer weekends this month, seeing as the others have either been clogged up with work or spent hungover (or spent hungover but still clogged up with work). It was also a harried getaway (in between assignments), but like I told someone, you live now, or you live never.

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438: forgetting orchard road

I remember —

  • When the normal McSpicy meal was a McSpicy double. Now they market it like some newfangled awesome burger like we are getting a damn good deal — they think we don’t remember. We do remember, but we get conned into buying it anyway.
  • When they used to have ice-cream in Twist.
  • When McDonald’s meals were $4.50 normally and not part of some lunch time promotion.
  • When the first thing you saw when you walked into the Wisma underpass was McDonald’s on the right, and St. Cinnamon on the left.
  • I don’t even remember whether the aquarium still exists. But I don’t think it does.
  • When there used to be a huge hill for maids to picnic on Sundays, right where Ion Orchard now sits.
  • When you could actually cross the damn road.
  • When the best beef noodles in Orchard Road was at the food court at the basement of Scotts Shopping Centre.
  • When I bought my prom dress from Scotts Shopping Centre. I recently wore it the other day, and I was sad to have to tell people that not only does the shop no longer exist, the entire freaking building is gone.
  • When Fish & Co used to be at Wheelock Place.
  • When Wheelock Place was called Lane Crawford!
  • When there used to be a Haagen Dazs at Tangs, along the main road.
  • When Takashimaya was first built, and they were having a competition to name their mascots, and I wanted to call them Taka and Taki. I think they are called Joy and Roy.
  • When you had to walk by the old cobbler sitting along the walkway leading to Somerset MRT station in order to get there.
  • When there was still a car park where the monstrosity called 313@Somerset (what sort of shitty name is that?) now is.
  • The McDonald’s at Centrepoint used to be open air!
  • When Centrepoint used to have the most awesome Christmas decorations along the entire road. Then some smart aleck decided to ‘revamp’ the facade and now everything is just glass. Like every other building along Orchard Road.
  • When Marche and NYDC were the coolest places on earth to eat.
  • When Quickly bubble tea had a branch at Lucky Plaza and the queues were longer than KOI’s.
  • The Swensen’s. IT IS GONE.
  • What used to be the Hello! building. I don’t even know what is there anymore, or whether it is even there at all. I liked it when there was a Starbucks there. I would know if there was still a Starbucks there, but there isn’t. There also used to be a Popular there, where I first met a bunch of Chinese High boys peeking in between bookshelves and assessment books. Then it became a Party World KTV, which I also used to go to. Now … I have no idea.
  • Oh my goodness. The Popular at Orchard MRT station. The place to go for emergency stationery supplies for millions of RGS girls.
  • Does anyone else remember that there used to be a Jack’s Place hidden at the side of the Citibank building (which is next to Heeren?)
  • When Emerald Point still existed (you know the one directly opposite 313? Where there is now a huge gaping hole? Which used to be (1) Crystal Jade, (2) Bee Cheng Hiang, (3) some irrelevant jewellery shop?)
  • When the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station was just a blue print in my Social Studies textbook. I’m pretty sure I still have that textbook. It had a diagram which showed eight levels of stuff. There it is now, in full tangible glory. Not a blue print.
  • The old Cathay.

You know, I also know for a fact that they changed the main road facade of the entrance to Emerald Hill. I know because I clearly remember lamenting how it had changed and I would no longer remember how it used to look like. And now I no longer remember how it used to look like. Except that it has somehow changed.

Like so many other things in life, we only remember the changing, and not the change itself.

437: it’s a dangerous road (and a hazardous load)

Graduating is such a strange thing. I feel older, and yet not. I am completely unready. This transitional period is unsettling and discomforting, but it achieves what I like the most about life: it postpones the inevitable unhappiness. I don’t know for sure that I will not be happy; yet it almost seems a certainty. This is probably because I am lazy and hate to work, no matter how much I like whatever I’m doing. I cannot imagine how it would feel like to step into an office every single day, facing pages and pages of documents, the only comfort being the pantry with its endless supply of Milo. I am scared.

I am scared that my job will define me. For me it has defined so many others. When I see a doctor I find it hard to comprehend that he once acted in a musical, played rugby, travelled the world. I find it hard to reconcile my secondary school teachers with their private lives, their children, the fact that they do so much more. That they are normal people with likes and dislikes, and hobbies, with bouts of happiness and sadness, and days when they absolutely hate their job. Will it all be lost? When I finally become a lawyer, will everyone else forget that I love to write, to travel, and dream with my head in the air? That I have emotional responses to movies, that my feelings oscillate when I listen to music? I am scared. I am scared that all they will see is a young girl in corporate attire who doesn’t know what to do. I am scared that when I am 35, all they will see are mergers and acquisitions, securities regulations documents. We are so many things. How can one job define us all? Yet it can. The stereotypes are plentiful and exist, surely, for a reason: every year more and more people join the ranks of the soulless, all those who hibernate in tall buildings and wake up only when the bright lights go out. We know this is not true; that we have minds, and loves, and are prone to extreme emotions, we dream as any other. But every year the uninitiated continue to dread the inevitable. This sense of doom is surely an illusion. Will we not keep ourselves intact? But we struggle continually between believing what our eyes and ears tell us, and believing in ourselves. Which one is true? Who knows?

The answer is simple, and perhaps almost too simple. Time will tell. Time, the answer to everything, especially when it comes to things happening. When will you be getting married? Time will tell. When will you be happy again? Time heals all wounds. What is going to happen next week? Just wait and when you will know. Such an obvious answer is also obviously the most useless. By the time time can tell, it is too late. Why would I want to live half my life not knowing where my soul has gone, only to find out that all the stereotypes were true? I am scared.

436: may all your wishes come true

DisneySea and Universal Studios. Probably the second and third happiest places on earth. But I’m a ride junkie, even though I love Winnie the Pooh to bits. So the theme park that gets my vote is Universal Studios, just because it has a rollercoaster that I got to go on five times. It was the first time in the history of me visiting theme parks that I didn’t have to queue more than 45 minutes for the most popular ride. My longest wait (for Thunder Mountain Railroad or whatever it’s called)? 3 hours!!!!

Joy at the height of summer. Much love.

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435: all this hate and love

Maybe it’s true what they say about big cities; maybe it’s not. What is more certain is that life goes on the way it has for years, regardless of the tourists that come and go, snapping pictures for their travel albums back home. Funny how scenes of every day life translate into souvenirs, as if you would make a lovely picture just standing outside and taking in the laundry. But you do make a lovely picture. I don’t know what to say about Japan. Most of these were day trips, achieved by taking a train out from the cities, filled with skyscrapers and illegible Japanese neon signs. Here the lights go off by ten, and the streets are empty after dinner. We wandered slowly and tentatively, afraid to break the hush. Once in awhile we pass by a convenience store (truly convenient), refuel, go on our way again. A bicycle stops, and a high school jock gets off. He wears his track suit, his dyed hair is painfully brown, illuminated against the harsh flourescent lights. They step in to flip over magazines along the aisle, filled with covers of pretty girls with big boobs.

These cities are old and quiet and the residents cycle through everyday life with steady momentum. People are less brash, more polite. The air is fresh and cold. The mountains continue to exist, as they always have, without our presence or help.

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434: where i would like to be

I know I say this altogether too often, but what is up with the weather?

For once, can it PLEASE RAIN? I don’t understand why people hate the rain in Singapore. Sure it dampens moods, and you have to cancel half your plans, but there’s just something about hiding indoors when outdoors (I mean, hiding inside somewhere when you’re out, i.e. not your house). The smell of rain is wonderful, as is the post-rain quietness that settles over the city. The sky is blueish-grey, and feet patter across wet walkways. We squeal when we step into puddles, though whether from delight or horror. More importantly, it is not hot. The night wind feels marvellous. Everyone is in a better mood.

I don’t know how it became so hot. Maybe it’s global warming, because summers are getting hotter everywhere (time for the damn Europeans to finally invest in some airconditioning) and the winters are getting colder and gloomier and longer. I didn’t remember it being this scorching when I was a kid. My childhood car used to have one of those temperature sensors —  now ubiquitous in every car, but it was the height of automobile technology then (along with a colour TV, in-built voice recognition software, and a million other sensors; cool hor. This was 1993.) I remember when I thought 32 degrees was OMG HOT. Now it’s the average daily temperature. Life sucks, we’re all going to die.

Nothing like soba on a hot day!

433: scenes from summer

I’ve been posting a lot of pictures lately because I’ve recently discovered that with WordPress, you don’t actually need to manually upload pictures, especially if you’re taking them from somewhere already on the net. i.e. you just need to copy and paste. Also, it’s less tiring than writing, which seems to drain me a lot these days. I wonder where all the capability to write introspective posts went. But it’s funny how writing style changes from year to year. Sometimes I look through my old posts (narcissistic I know, haha) and cringe at my horrible English — in between my emo posts there are pointless rants and ramblings of a teenage girl (so evident) complete with horrid misspellings and things like ‘okae@_____’ and ‘how gay’ and all manner of assorted sayings that were so prevalent back then. Nowadays my sentences are shorter but I am no less rambly. I still use a ton of commas (though not as much) but it seems I’ve now switched to dumping brackets every other sentence.

I’ve been thinking about loss these days. How sometimes I feel like I don’t want to confront the issues, which may be soon at hand. It’s not something I can help but it doesn’t make me feel anymore comfortable with the idea, nor is it something I welcome. More than anything it’s hard to say goodbye to someone who has been here all your life. It’s easy to say all these thoughts are premature, but what else can you do when you know the date draws nearer every day or year, even if you never know when it will be? They say your life can’t be put on hold while you wait. But it does, and it has to. If the guilt doesn’t come from within you, someone else will lay it on for you. Imagine having to deal with that on top of everything else.

I spent much of today looking through The Big Picture at the Boston Globe. I lingered over the old pictures of Russia, and I spent altogether too much time looking at war photos, all of them published for commemorative reasons. ‘Remembering D-Day, 66 Years On’. It should not have been that long ago. In some ways I’m grateful they are in black and white. It provides an emotional distance you don’t often get from colour pictures, in which there remains too much immediacy, like it just happened yesterday. In this day and age anybody can take a picture. In those days cameras were so rare, and every picture had a purpose, some meaning. A body lying dead on the ground. That famous napalm image. Mass graves, cannons, blood. A series of three photos shows the sudden death of a Viet Cong spy. One minute the gun is at his head, the next frame shows him slumped on the ground. In the days of film you never knew what you were going to end up with, till you got back home, away from the gunshots and the bombs. I spent most of today in slight depression because of this.

There are times when I feel such an overwhelming sense of loss in a different way. Just last night I think I was hallucinating. As I lay on the seat of the car and let my mind roll into all the places it should never have gone, I thought of cool nights and bicycles and racing home through the shortcut with no streetlights. When I woke up I was sad to find that I was not in front of my crappy door where the key doesn’t turn properly especially when you have frozen hands, that it was not a long street but my own front gate. I stumbled upstairs thinking about why I was still here. I’ve never missed my own home as much as I do my kitchen backyard room in Holland, and maybe only because it was a life I could call my own. Is it possible to be homesick for a place that isn’t even your home? They say life is never as good as it is elsewhere, but when I spent my year overseas, I missed nothing about Singapore. My mother says it is a good thing I didn’t go to UCL. I would never have come home. I should not be having these thoughts.

This is not to say I don’t like where I come from. But I feel sometimes as if my entire existence has been too safe. Yes you could push the envelope, but for educated middle-class families this usually means teaching English somewhere in a rural area of India or Cambodia or Thailand, which means (still) anywhere but here. How far can you go without leaving the country? It’s a petri dish. I can’t infect anybody; nobody infects me. I know that an entire generation has gone through hardship just so I can have this existence. Why would I run off seeking danger?

432: winters in paris

Back then I was still nursing a broken heart, but my memories of this place are warm. More than any other, this trip was perhaps the most uplifting, seeing as how things were the way they were. Not that we did anything in particular — sightsee, yes; climb up Montmartre, have some crepes, trek across Paris (half the metro line). We spent lots of time hiding from the cold in warm cafes with hot chocolate and coffee. I was sad half the time, but I was also happy. Thank goodness for this city of love, this city of lights, this city of pain. When I think back on this time my heart always aches. I doubt there is any other city that embodies as many shattered dreams as this one.