The local tourists and their foreign guide

My friends from overseas: Oh, so what’s it’s like in Singapore?

Me: Well. It’s really safe. And clean. And the epitome of a concrete jungle. …

Behold, my incredibly pathetic description of Singapore. Being abroad made me realise how little I know or am able to say about my own country. And I’m quite ashamed of that. But it isn’t that I dislike living here. However, I do think that we live in an environment that causes us to take things for granted, without questioning the process, the hows and whys of  Singapore’s evolution to the place we know today. I’ve come to learn how there is so much value in understanding our country, its insides and outs.

Singapore is developing at such a tremendous speed that things aren’t the same as it used to be ten, five or even one year ago. Maybe it’s just that bout of nostalgia, but I hate to see things go so suddenly. Is there nothing on this island worth preserving? As I witness the rapidly changing landscape, I can’t help but lose a little bit of faith, and question what gives this country its identity, what makes us Singaporeans.

I haven’t always been the most patriotic, or the biggest advocate of heritage preservation. But I know that an appreciation for life, to find meaning and a sense of belonging , comes from seeing the value in the things around us. Singapore, as our island home, is the physical embodiment of history, collective memories and shared ideas. What then, becomes of our “rootedness” to this land when everything changes into something unfamiliar?

I want to hold on to the past as tightly as I can. Even if I can’t stop them from its demolition, I want to remember them, because there is value in knowing the role they played in making Singapore. On a night out with my friends a week back, one of them who moved here a few years back brought us around the Tiong Bahru area. He seemed to know the place inside out, and it wasn’t because he lived there. I listened in quiet admiration as he talked about extensively exploring places in Singapore in his free time, simply walking around to find the little old gems in the city, and gathering ideas for a day out with friends. In Singapore, going out shouldn’t be limited to the usual, boring cafe hopping. I mean… The food usually isn’t even that good for the price, and I’d choose a good $3 plate of Carrot Cake anytime.

Appreciation, I believe, is always something deeply personal. The values we associate with something varies from one person to the next, and that is perfectly fine. To me, it’s only a problem when we can’t seem the see the inherent value of a thing. Something that has provided us with so much. Why does this knowledge evade our attention though? For me, I guess it took a semester abroad to realise what my home meant to me. Of course, my first thought was missing the presence of my friends and family, the people who give me everything, and show me what it was like to be loved. The memories I share with them, though, aren’t separate from the places we visited together. From weekend family trips to Fort Canning Park, to shoe shopping at Queensway Shopping Centre with the trackers, or those torturous runs at Macritchie, these were unique activities that made these experiences more impressionable. Perhaps this is why I find it rather pointless to focus on building mall after mall, and catering to the indulgent, mindless nature of consumerism. Because what meaning can we associate with that? How fondly will we remember it?

Coming back from my Exchange, I guess I’ve discovered a new goal. I want Singaporeans to see the country for all its beauty, to recognise its unique traditions and realise just how much this home has to offer that no other place can provide. I know it isn’t an easy endeavour, but I feel as though it is a cause I want to contribute to, even if it is just impacting a person or two. Meanwhile, this also means it is time for me to learn more about my own country, from its history, to the hidden places that I’ve yet to discover.

Advertisements

Maybe we are not so different after all

It’s finally time to head back home!

I’m currently at the airport now in Calgary, and it’s been a pretty awesome ride. Now, it’s an agonising 4 hours wait for my flight, so I thought I’d write a little.

I just parted ways with Miki, one of my best friends that I made on Exchange, and actually, perhaps my biggest takeaway from UAF! Thank you Miki! If you are reading this!

Talking to her, I thought about all the people I’ve interacted with the past 6 months. Through it all, maybe my biggest lesson is that the people will always be the most crucial aspect of my life. What made my exchange so special wasn’t the fact that I got to visit all these amazing places. They were all so incredible, and I even got to visit (what I thought was) my favourite place on Earth. But what are places without the feelings that you invest into it?

For me, these feelings were that of being able to bask in the moments I share with my friends. As cliche as it is to say, I guess there’s nothing I value more than the human connection. When you think about how people from such different backgrounds can share the same experience and especially the same sentiments, it’s pretty mindblowing. At the same time, I suppose it’s also impossible for us to look at something the exact same way, and this exposes us to so many more ways of viewing the world. A simple conversation can broaden your horizon in ways you’d never expect it to, but only if you stop to think about it for a moment. I am thankful to be able to immerse myself in cultures so unlike my own, to be able to learn from others, and in that process, learn about myself too.

But I am far from perfect. So many times I got frustrated, or just failed/couldn’t be bothered to empathise with someone else. I guess I’m still trying to figure that out, were we meant to always make an effort to understand others? But I imagine that would be very difficult. I don’t know, maybe when I’ve reached a higher conscious of being..

Nevertheless, I am blessed for the genuine connections  I made with people and it makes me sad to think that I might never see them again. But I guess I have hope that we will. Sometimes distance is kind of an illusion, because maybe the right people will always find a way to stay in your life. I suppose only time will tell.

 

Back to the Blogosphere

It’s been awhile! I always have these periods of wanting to pen down my thoughts and I guess this is another one. This time, I’d like to keep it as consistent as possible though so hopefully that works out!

I read through my posts and so much has changed since the last 2 years. I still struggle in reconciling with some of those dilemmas I used to have, but I think I’ve grown so much since then and I’m in a much better state of mind now.

My exchange to Fairbanks recently came to an end. Prior to that, the past 2 years were incredibly smooth-flowing for me. Everything was working out exactly the way I wanted it to, and I was so happy to be doing everything I loved almost all the time. I could literally count the number of bad days I had in one hand.

However, my time at UAF was quite a ride itself. I’ve had perhaps as many awesome days as rough days, but it was 5 whole months of learning about myself once more and figuring out how to navigate the nooks and crannies of life. I picked up perspectives that I’d like to keep for the rest of my life, while also discovering many flaws I never knew I had. At times, it was quite a battle with my self-esteem, something I struggled with in the middle of the semester. I don’t know if I’ve yet to cope with it properly, but it’s definitely something I’ll be working on from now.

I’d like to pick out and write about the lessons I’ve learnt in the next few posts. I guess it’ll help me to recall the memories I’ve had there, as well as reap all that I potentially can from Exchange for a long time to come. So yeah, I guess this is where I’ll stop writing for now! I’m currently in Toronto having a really chill time with a friend. It was a tiring but extremely fulfilling week in Hawaii, but I’m thankful for this little breathing space before I head to Alberta, which has always been my dream destination!! I can’t wait. 🙂

I think I haven’t been living for myself much at all. And it feels as though this is why I, or anyone who is in a similar situation, find it so difficult to be content with life. How far does the phrase, “there is a world bigger than ourselves” go? It sounds so selfish and wrong to make a decision that benefits you, yet it is at the expense of somebody else. At the same time, I feel as though I am not doing myself justice?

Down but not out?

Some days I feel like I can conquer anything, and some days I feel like the lousiest person on Earth.

I guess it’s only natural for us to feel this way; The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Balance only comes when we are allowed to feel both extremes, and it is through all of it that we grow. But somehow it’s so difficult to convince myself that the bad times will pass, even though I’m already sure it will, eventually.

I’ve been trying so hard to stay afloat, and I guess it’s true when they say that when it rains, it pours. I’ve lost my only outlet for stress when I broke my collarbone. I can’t train or run for the next two months or so. Even though I’ve accepted it, I don’t think I can get over it. It affects me daily, especially when the pain serves as a constant reminder of what I’m unable to do.

I feel so defeated and lost. I guess Judo served as an escape from the actual problems I had to face. Now that it’s gone, I’m forced to confront them.

The same problem has arose from my time in JC. I’m once again stuck in studying what I don’t feel anything for, and I know so much that I can’t force myself to do it no matter what. I’ve learnt recently that when it comes to the things I’m passionate about, I’ll give it my all, and that’s honestly something I want to pride myself in. But the real issue lies in the complete and utter lack of shit I give to things I don’t care for. For the rare occasions when my heart and mind are in sync, I know I’ll remain unfazed by anything. But what if my heart knows what it wants, and my mind tells me otherwise? Nothing is ever as clear-cut as it seems and in every decision you make, there are so so many things to consider. “Don’t think, just do,” was one advice given to me by a friend. And while that is certainly sound advice I ought to follow, am I able to ignore the little voices inside telling me that this isn’t right for me?

So many conflicting feelings and things unsaid that I don’t know how I can put into words. Feel so unsure of everything but even as I feel defeated, I refuse to admit defeat. Here’s to trusting myself  to take actions that would lead me in the right direction. And slowly but surely, I’ll get to where I want to be.

 

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

Kurt Vonnegut

Your comfort zone is such a dangerous place.  Sometimes it feels like perhaps most of us have never truly left there before, even though we make the conscious effort to. For this I can’t help but wonder if I’ve ever genuinely put in my best effort in anything before, cause it always feels like I give in to compromises in some way. How much is enough? What are my limits? Never considered myself a competitive person but would that be enough to justify my lack of drive? If it weren’t for winning, what do we fight for? Some might say we give it our all simply for self-improvement, and I do, too.  But how do we know that THAT is our best effort and we have not actually succumbed to our subconscious mind that tells us this is enough for our “self-proclaimed self-improvement” ? It’s 2.30am, maybe I’m not even making sense, but these are the thoughts that keep me up at night. 

I’ve also been thinking about the concept of fear. I’ve read somewhere before that if we aren’t afraid of death, we aren’t afraid of anything. I used to think that was true, but I’ve realised that what people fear more than death itself is pain and suffering. This leads me back to what I was harping on. I guess I’ve always had the fear of trying my best, although somehow I manage to convince myself all the time that I do indeed try my best. But it’s easy to tell yourself that, and to ignore that little nagging voice at the back of your head which says you’re lying to yourself. The fear of trying your best stems from the fear of pain/suffering. In that sense, isn’t pain such a powerful emotion/sensation? We can never avoid it, or truly love it, but we can learn to embrace and accept it. I guess experiences in life are there to teach you just how we can do that. And maybe we won’t ever get to that point of full acceptance, but the closer we are, the more invincible we become.