Singapore

something meaningful

A few exciting things:

1. I start teaching tomorrow – so begins eight (at most) weeks of frequent 6.15 am risings and forty-five minute car rides. I am excited, not going to lie. My first class tomorrow will be 110, which happens to be my sec 1 class, of course. It is only my narrative bias that compels me to find significance in what is merely chance, but nonetheless, I think it is minorly remarkable that I am back teaching at RGS. It is something I certainly didn’t imagine I’d do – that didn’t even occur to me as a possibility – when I was at RGS. Googled a few things on classroom management for 7th graders, but I realize the (North) American syllabi are very different from the Singaporean one, or at least the RG one, because the expectations are worlds apart. (No prizes for guessing which set’s is higher!)

2. Speaking of coincidences, after the Singaporean UWC gathering, I found out that the head of my national committee in the year of my selection is going to Oxford as a Visiting Scholar this fall, too. He did a double-take when he asked me where I was going for uni and I told him, in the car on the way back from the gathering.

(On that note, I am beginning to be aware of a frisson of worry that, as I am labouring under the (mis)apprehension that I know quite (of) a few people in Oxford, and London and the UK at large, I will go there expecting to fit right in and be totally comfortable and adjust and not be lonely, and when the inevitable happens, I’ll be more devastated than if I send a few weeks stressing about university life first. I generally detest the idea of orientation week. Here’s hoping the copious amounts of alcohol helps?)

The UWC gathering itself was … nostalgic enough. It’s funny how time and distance will change your perspective so thoroughly that you wouldn’t even realize it was a recent shift without the intellectual knowledge of it. There must have been a better way of phrasing that.

These were my three pieces of advice to the two new scholars:
a. A twist on what I said the previous year: don’t fall in love, because you’ll – not regret it, exactly, but rue it. But your heart gets stretched when you think it was broken, and there is more room for people in it, and more space for empathy, which can only – and must always – be a good thing. I have always struggled with feelings, one way or another. But as Anaïs Nin said,

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through.
Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

(Who is this woman??? How could she read my mind half a century ago??) And in Pearson, you fall in love with many, many people. It occurred to me recently that Pearson departures always – and are designed to – have a substantial amount of pathos in them. I don’t know if my leaving Singapore was met with as much fanfare as the end of Pearson, and even now, with people leaving for university … I wonder if I’ll feel similarly about leaving university itself? Or as my seniors leave after the first year? Somehow I doubt it. But I would like to be proven wrong. Even minor things the past six, seven weeks, have revealed how it won’t be easy to meet up with people, with schedules and financial constraints and all the mundane noise of life, even when you really really want to, but there are many, many things you really, really want, and sometimes life – and growing up – is about delaying gratification. Or something. I guess.

(I read very recently that people find it easier to use vocabulary they’ve used before, a vicious cycle that eventually DEPLETES your immediately accessible word bank. I am guilty of that quite often, particularly in my metaphors. This is very distressing.)

b. The conventional wisdom = “don’t lose yourself in UWC”; to that, I said, sometimes when you lose yourself, you find someone far better. Yourself, of course, again. I’ve changed enough – significantly, almost, but I am always sensitive to any implied accusation in statements like that. I’m not less me now that that’s happened, and I’m not the person I was two years ago. It’s taken me more than a month after Pearson to notice.

My thoughts do shift fast enough to give myself whiplash. I’m trying this idea on for size: it’s not Singapore I abhor, it’s the idea of resting, settling in a place too long and losing one’s edge, being too comfortable in a world that is constantly trembling. (It’s like when you zone out on the sublime high of riding a windsurf and neglect to focus and a rogue wave jerks you into the water … not that that’s happened to me. At all.)

c. Make friends with people from enough countries and continents to ensure that you’ll always have someone to stay with wherever you want to go (;

3. I DID A MURAL (KIND OF) BY MYSELF TODAY. ImageI had great volunteers who did all the base colours and were meticulous and hard-working and considerate and took initiative, which is a huge change from the usual ragtag bunch, and especially fortuitous because my colleague bailed on me without warning both days (sketch + paint with volunteers) this weekend. The design is super cheesy and it’s not a prize-winning work of art by any means, but the sense of accomplishment was giddy. I spent almost twelve hours on this baby. And it’s for a good cause, which I appreciate, and the people – the heartlanders ! – I met were very heartwarming. Alnost makes me regret ending my internship next Monday. Almost.

I am very proud of my lion.

4. Dead tired and need to sleep. Got up at 6.15 am this morning. Will be getting up same time tomorrow and this whole week ):

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