A Letter To My Uncle

Being away from Singapore has always given me the time, space and environment to function properly as a human. My mother recently texted me about how my uncle came over to our place and asked about our well being. He asked about my plans for my future, if I’ve enrolled to university, and what my course of action would be. My mother also mentioned the stress she has been under given the circumstances that I’ve had the freedom to decide for myself what I wish to do with my life. And it worries her, as it should, because clearly I’ve not demonstrated clarity in many of the things that I’ve done in the past 2 months.

At this point of my I cannot say that I have things going good. I cannot say that I have big life plans – five years, ten years, as many years – and I cannot say that some day I’ll be well settled. Because as it is, the life in Singapore for me has always been troubling. The biggest problem, potentially, that I have now is that I cannot stand up for my ‘belief’, and what kind of life would it be to not be able to live as you wish. Even now, I am troubled to use the term ‘belief’ because whenever we mention this to others, that ‘my belief is this this this, or that I believe in this and that’, you instantly put up a wall. And often in extreme cases, such conflicts would eventually come to certain form of detachment. Because we are a family. We hold on to our traditions, our roots, and our culture. And how do you live within a community of people who have different opinions on these sort of things?

So as it is, while I am able to be myself with people I cross paths with – be it family, friends or strangers – where I could demonstrate a certain level of respect and appreciation for the differences, I cannot stand up to my upbringing and say that I am not there with them.

This is not something that I would say up front to my uncle yet, but if I do have this conversation, and if I can muster these clarity in thought, I think this is what I would say. But I do wish, that when the moment comes – and it will come – that I will be to say this up front.

 

Dear Uncle

I understand the concerns that you, my parents and everyone else share with regards to our well being and our future. I understand that you care for us, and to a certain extent, as men, we take pride in how we stand as a family and as individuals in society. I know that it must concern you dearly to know that you do not know the direction or the path that we’re on at the moment. To make things worse, it is also worrying that we do not share or discuss things. You have hardly any glimpse into our lives and the more you ask, the deeper in we hide. But there will always be moments when we’d wonder if our elders are right, and if we should accept their wisdom and experience follow through with that guidance.

I guess what I want to say is I don’t know where I’m going, and I am fine with that. I worry about my own education. I worry that I do not fully utilize my capabilities, however we define it. And I worry that I will not have comfort, ease, love, companionship, wisdom, health and wealth in the future as much as everyone else.

But how can I assure you that I care for myself more deeply than a parent would for their children? I cannot assure you anything at this point, clearly. I cannot assure you that I would be disciplined in my endeavours, and that I would always be focused and on track. We can study as hard as we want, go to university, live a life studying so that we will be better than others, that we might be invaluable as a person but surely you cannot assure me that the path I ought to be on would bring me success? I know that the least you would ask for is that we be disciplined and focused and be good and righteous and firm in our decisions and seek advice, but even that is quite a lot to ask. We go through this hell of a life and I guess there will always be people that will lose. But who’s to say that we will never ever lose?

I’ve been defeated countless of times – in life, in relationships, in maths, and yes it’s better that we lose while we’re young and while you still have an eye over us but I need you to know that I am fine. I have the love of my mother and I have wealth – a sort of wealth I cannot really explain – but I will live. I want to make it as much as everyone else.

We all have our own separate journeys and I am really taking my time. But somehow, I just need you to believe that I am on top of this, even though it might not seem that way now. And I do hope that you would understand this.

 

 

P.S – Maybe you could go after my sister and brother instead.

The second part of that previous post

Well I’m slightly more together now. My attention was everywhere in that last post.

Anyway, I ended the night in Adelaide feeling really uncomfortable. It was a dark room, with the faint sound of the rain. It was quite a cold night. I spent the first 20 minutes rolling in cold until I realize I was lying down on the blanket.

Just earlier, during the barbecue, we exchanged stories – travel stories, life stories, relationship stories. There were people from London, Burma who left home to find a life for themselves. And this got me to thinking about where I was in life then.

It was a hard night, and there were moments where I truly wished I could go back to Sydney right away. The fact that I had to spend the next 2 days planning for myself in a foreign land was quite unbearable, and I was adequately unprepared. I only had 2 apples in my bag left and Weet-bix that really just tastes like horse food. (I realize later you had to eat it with milk) Singapore was so convenient. And we have it really, really good. Too good that it stops you from growing after a while.

So anyway, I thought about the value of that experience then. The last time I ever felt that uncomfortable would be the first few days of National Service. You’d think that you’d be used to a new experience when you’ve experienced it, and that was the case. You grow through experiences, and while situations might be similar, you’re never the same.

That experience then was brand new to me. I’d imagine that it was far more uncomfortable than having to be alone. To live solely on your own. I thought that being financially independent was sufficient. I thought that being positive and open to new experience was fertile ground to experience new, fleeting moments of such nature with comfort. But shit, I was wrong. The importance of having shelter and food, really, just the basic needs of survival. And everywhere, people have endured living in the streets, with no food and hardly any pride left, I’d imagine, from having to beg. Shit.

Well I fell asleep eventually.

I was surprisingly up early the following day. Got dressed, stole a loaf of bread from the fridge and a glass of orange juice, [I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t mind. I would ask but they were asleep?] and headed towards the bus station. It rained again.

It was actually a convenient distance away from the inn. I later realize that my ticket was an OPEN ticket, which meant that I could travel on any date, which meant that if the 7:15 bus was full, I’d be screwed. And there was a seat left.

Boarded the bus, met a few people. Sat next to an indian lady, whom I began to converse very comfortably for the next 30 minutes. She eventually offered me a place to stay at Melbourne, but I refused even though every fibre in my body said yes.

[She used to teach in Monash University. Her husband was a psychologist. She had no kids. She was a healthy healthy person. Ate only organic food, offered me sunflower seeds and plenty of nuts for breakfast and lunch.]

[Going to stop here. Trying to recall checkpoints and town names].

An Unexpected.. something [1/2]

It’s 10pm in Sydney right now, and it’s been about 20 hours since I came back from Melbourne. I thought I might find the inspiration in this cold and write about what’s been going on in the past 4 days because frankly, it’s been amazing. I’m still alive, sorta, even though I’ve been subdued by cold, rain, fear, and being alone in a foreign land.

I’ve travelled alone to Australia so many times, but it is probably accurate to say that the past 4 days have been by far the most amazing. I decided to fly to Australia to experience the Autumn for the first time, and also to get away from the hectic and daily routines of military life in Singapore. And to be honest, this trip wasn’t planned – just as it was for the past 2308231 trips.

[It wasn’t dark enough so I continued at 1.15am]

Right, so I thought I might write a collective post on all that’s been going on in the past 4 days. Actually, 3 days ago.

Anyway, here it is: 3 days ago (Saturday) I left Sydney for Adelaide. Took the first plane out on that day because I realize just how comfortable things have been. To be out of home, and into a foreign land with people you already know and places you’ve already been to, I mean, is that even something new?

So I bought the ticket out with no return ticket in mind. As soon as I arrived, I made my way to the city to have lunch with 2 of my friends from Singapore. We spent a bit of time catching up, and soon after we parted ways. It is probably good to mention here that my phone ran out of credit, so I had no communications with anyone, and I was unwilling to top it up. I mean, it really is quite refreshing to be out there without reception or anyone to bother you.

It was 4pm, I had no accommodation, no idea on where the buses and trains will take me, and it was getting dark. And it was starting to rain. So I took a peek at my friend’s GPS before we parted and I left to search for shelter that night. And.. I got lost. I needed to settle in for the night and there was no use being concerned with anything aside from that.

To be accurate, I was 2 streets off (the roads weren’t properly reflected in the map). It was 5~6pm and it was raining and the cold was getting to my fragile body. Eventually I ran into an English guy. At first I thought he was going to mug me – you know how they are. Coated, hands in their sweaters, beanie to cover his head, with facial hair properly designed to make it look deliberately unkempt. At that moment I thought it would be wise to pretend to be brave and talk to him to show that I wasn’t frightened of him, so I did.

Turns out he got lost too (really weird) and he was looking for the same place I was. Eventually, we walked a few blocks back and we found the place. We settled into the backpacker’s inn, and I took a bit of time to walk around and explore the place. It was amazing. A room for internet, wifi throughout the whole unit, balconies on the second floor facing the city, an asian woman that was willing to cook dinner for us, a nice couch/tv area,  and really really fun backpackers. There were people who have been travelling for weeks, people who were on their own and looking to settle in, people who were living there, and people who were like me – lost, stranded and skinny.

There was a couple (I was sharing the room with the boyfriend) who invited me to barbeque with them. So I went down with them in casual shoes and sweat pants (I didn’t have slippers). They laughed at me a bit, laughed a bit more at jokes that were being made and eventually everyone got along and we had a great time. Plus the shops were all already closed so the free food was amazingly timely. There were about 4 buildings for accommodation at that area, so there were a lot of people. It was actually lovely, and then it occurred to me for the first time how there were many people there who were also alone and were having a great time with strangers they’d never meet again.

That was when I decided that I ought to make plans for the next day. I fired up my laptop and I think, for a good 3 hours, I sat there contemplating on whether I should bus down to Melbourne and then to Sydney, or take a plan back the day after tomorrow. It took a bit of consideration, and after a while I decided on taking the bus. So I booked my tickets, got it printed, and packed my things for the next day. It was 1am and I had to be at the station by 7am the following day. I turned in as soon as I was packed, and I believe the last time I experienced a night like that was my first day of enlistment.

‘Between men and women…’

Well I was re-reading Oscar Wilde’s and my mind got wrapped around his quote on friendship between men and women;

Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.”

And so I spent the last 2 hours trying to figure out the dynamics of his opinion. It’s probably, firstly, important to note that there is no degree of truth to this statement – it is after all just an opinion. It’s not science. But anyway, for those who read, and for those who might have a different opinion to this quote, I would love to have your opinion. As it stands, I might be holding on to this set of opinions that I’ve chanced upon.

I’ve been trying to figure out what Oscar Wilde meant when he said that ‘there is no friendship possible’ between men and women. I’ve seen plenty of discussions on google with regards to whether ‘men and women’ can be friends, but I guess this is heavily, heavily subjective. And I am not interested in whether or not that is possible because there’s no one or the other in an opinion.

But before I begin, I think it’s important to be clear on what Oscar Wilde means in his novel by friendship. The term friendship is used in this novel as something consistent, and something truly concrete. In this sense, (I can’t think of any other scenarios) the people that you would think of before you die would be considered your friend. As it stands, that isn’t a lot of people for many people.

So, really, what I’m trying to understand is if it’s really possible. Is it possible for a man and woman to have a consistent and mutual friendship throughout the course of the relationship?

I think not.

What struck me the hardest was the term friendship, and it really boils down to semantics on how you choose to approach it. Emerson said that ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.’. The nature of this statement was really directed at opinions, intelligence and consistency, that a person cannot be consistently intelligent, or consistently correct.

Consistency is a pattern. It’s like your IQ when you sit for an IQ test. Naturally, you’d be able to do better when you know the laws and the pattern that govern the test. But your raw IQ is not your IQ. Your IQ for a maths test could be brilliant, average for a logic test, and below average for an analysis test but there is no pattern. Similarly, a pattern is created from repetitions, and patterns are not natural. So really, consistency is not of men’s nature, and to be consistent for anything is not part of a person’s nature.

So really, if a mutual friendship really means consistency, to be consistently affectionate, consistently caring, no more and no less – that’s not possible, right?

The slightest change in the dynamics of emotions in a relationship could change many things. It doesn’t matter if we act on it or if we suppress it because it is what it is, and the dynamics will change with or without your consent. Because I think there’s always something of everything?

I just thought this was worthy of writing down. Cheers Leeann.

I love the night.

I enjoy long bus rides on empty highways and dark skies. I enjoy sitting quietly in the silence of the night (and it’s really quiet in Australia) and just do nothing. Or read, write, and listen to some slow music. But I seriously love the darkness. And I love space.

It is nice to be awake when everything else is asleep. Just the silence and the space and everything in between, and knowing that it’s the same everywhere else. Everything is just so quiet and still. A time to think, to appreciate, to feel.

I was in the bus from Melbourne to Sydney when I realize just how addicted I am to the night. Empty highway, cold night, and the stars so visibly seen spread across the clear, dark skies. It’s so therapeutic, and it’s probably weird to say this but I could feel life flowing through my veins. And it’s ecstatic.

People have their moments when they feel truly alive. What I’m trying to figure out now if it’s psychological, or is it simply a connection that you feel with the environment, and this would mean that it can take many forms.

 

Anyway, I’m everywhere right now. I’ll end this here.