A comprehensive reflection of 2009
I haven’t written an entry like this in quite a while. Feels liberating.
I know, it’s kinda late to be doing last year’s reflections at this time. But I was browsing through my tweets for the second half of last year and it suddenly struck me how I had forgotten so much of the bizarre time that was 2009. Such a Beautiful Mess of a year.
WARNING: A VERY VERY VERY VERY LONG POST AHEAD. Probably my longest yet, and probably repetitive at some points of you’ve been following this blog. Do not click if you do not wish to read my rambling. If you really love me that much, then click away (bottom left).
The only way I can summarize is that last year was a year of firsts. Of trying new things, daring to do new things, having the desire to make life different for myself.
Looking back, it was my exchange in Berkeley that had introduced this whole new lifestyle for me. Within those 6 months I’ve had countless firsts. Even the very act of me being there and living on my own without depending on my family was a first. I remember crying when my parents left me at Ihouse, precisely because I had never been out on my own and I didn’t know what was gona come next. But that was the first and last time I cried over missing home for the next half year.
There were too many things to do, places to see, people to meet, experiences to plunge into – so much of life. I doubt I was so philosophical and wise at that point of time – probably all I wanted was to have fun and gather some good memories along the way. But now I know what all of that was – it wasn’t just fun – everything was changing me, moulding me, shaping the way I saw things.
From then on, everything was new. And in some hidden part of me, I LOVED that everything was new. In part, it reminded me of how small I was, as compared to God and God’s magnificent creation. It went beyond geography and beyond the cosmos; it went into the relationships and interactions of the human being. And that excited me so much. It humbled me, to see and learn and breathe different.
Travelling in the summer continued this trend. Planning for each city destination – flights, buses, hotels, tickets. I might sound like an absolute noob and loser to some but for 21 years I’d never been in charge like that. Come on, I live in Singapore. What flights or buses do I need to book, what routes do I need to googlemap? Everything was given to me, served to me on a platter (albeit not silver. Not complaining though). My dad drives me and my brothers to our destinations when he can. Holidays are planned by my mom; even my school fees/handphone bills are settled without me ever knowing, and all I ever have to do in grocery shopping is throw in the snacks and juices that I want, and not what is needed to make dinner that night.(sidenote: I appreciate my parents alot, btw, for all this. THANK YOU PARENTS.) But I was so not ready to be independent. Now when I think about it, I suppose the best way to learn, is really to be thrown in the deep end. You firstly PRAY that you’re not going to drown/die (i.e. acknowledge the higher power), then you use whatever has been given to you (i.e. legs and arms) and fight for your life. In this way, you get to learn to swim, and fish, and cartwheel, and bike (na, can’t do the last two). Those kinda things (This analogy might start to lose its footing right about now).
And of course, there was YJ. He made everything better. Not just because he could drag around all our overweight suitcases and speak with a more comprensible accent. He kept me safe. Every day. There wasn’t ever a single time on our trip that I felt scared or paranoid that something bad might happen to us. Not once. Not when we thought we were going to miss our flight to Chicago because our bags were overweight and we had to reduce the weight on the spot in front of a huge line of angry Amerikans. Not when we curled up in the corner of the airport terminal and fell asleep on our bags like homeless people (twice). Not even when we were the only two Asians who boarded the five-hour bus in the middle of the desert in Las Vegas with a hoarde of Mexicans (that was creepy, come to think about it), or when we were stopped at the immigration checkpoint in the middle of Niland and the officer threatened to deport me back to Singapore because my visa was apparently expired. Not even when we found out that only I was eligible to drive our rental car and I had never driven on the opposite side of the road/wheel before. (He looked at me and said, Deb, you have a driving license right? You can do this. 5 seconds later he was like, you DO have a driving license right? I think I scared him way more times.) I always knew that as long as he was right beside me, we would be okay.
He indulged me in what I wanted to do – gondola rides in The Venetian, fighting teenage boys for the waves in the tidal pool, making the trip to Redondo just because I wanted to see where The OC was filmed, those insane twelve hour drives to the middle of nowhere to see Salvation Mountain. And I have him to thank for so many, so many things.
When I came back to SG, I suppose I wanted to continue this spirit of being open and ready to try new things and have new experiences.On retrospect, it’s kinda crazy the random things I did in those later 6 months. I signed up for a slave job at Cold Rock that paid me less than 5 an hour, took up knitting and knit a scarf and 4 headbands, started listening to KPOP zomg, cut my hair short even though I swore when I was 13 that I’d never do it again. I suppose you can say I was all over the place, especially the initial months of my return. It was messy, but it was Different. Different and New.
Well, my parents hated the fact that I was working slave labour and coming back late, and I even got my credit card stolen one day at work, which I suppose came as divine intervention for me to quit. But those 2-3 months working at Cold Rock taught me so much. It taught me the value of a dollar, and I don’t think its untrue if I say that that is one of the most important life lessons one could learn? I realised the extent of how privileged Singaporean teens are, who waltz into the shop and make expensive, flippant orders – not knowing that to earn every dollar they spend, my colleagues who are still working there have to break sweat, clear their mess, and devote precious time away from their family. It was so heart-breaking to realize it, and I felt even worse because I knew that I could quit and go back to being that teen in front of the counter making those orders – but my foreign colleagues did not have such a luxury. As much as I got so much flak for working there (friends, parents, parents’ friends), I appreciated every minute I spent there and I think God knew what He was doing when He let me get my job application approved. That experience added so much value to my life and my world view. People just don’t know it. People still refer to it as the time that I was “wasting time” and “didn’t know what I was doing”.
I could make up something and say that chopping my hair was a symbolic act of letting go, of starting over.. something like that. But I won’t. Instead I’ll say I was secretly happy that it ‘accidentally’ happened. It proved that maybe I had some guts after all. As far as I’m concerned, I am a wimp. I am a scaredy cat. I am not brave, not willing to take risks, not willing to compromise how people think about me. The biggest, most shocking act I have ever done in my life came only after 21 years, and that was getting a Korean-NZ bf while on exchange in America. Maybe that makes up for all the risks I hadn’t taken in those 21 years, hurhur. But from a different perspective of the same issue – the biggest, most shocking act I have ever done is given love a chance. Not a chance to necessarily last forever, as I cannot see past today, but a chance to show me what its about, and what it can do. Which at this point I would like to x-reference the awesome movie that is Valentines Day. Love is the only shocking act left on on the planet.
Now I know I have never talked much about my relationship on this public platform, always just pictures and short sentences and never anything much about feelings, really. The reason for that goes hand in hand with what I had just said earlier. The person who I (still) largely am – is the one who isn’t brave, isn’t willing to risk, isn’t willing to compromise how people (or how MORE people, if they haven’t already) will change their impression of me. Its sad, but most of all true. I’m kinda messed up. But aren’t we all…… ok scrap that.
So, dear reader (or dear FRIEND actually cos most of you are my friends), the main motivation behind this post was actually the realization of how blessed my life has been. Through the ups and the downs, the beautiful and the ugly, not once have I forgotten the hand of God at work in it all, not once have I failed to acknowledge how He can give and take away. And He still can, and maybe He will.
But as for now, looking back on my life and especially on the craziest, messiest, bizarre year of 2009, I would have to say that I would do it all again. No regrets. Because we are made up of our yesterdays. And every yesterday that passes is a gift of life from above, not a given right. For you, me, and everyone we know.