Writing end-of-year always feels strange, because somehow the second half constantly seems more real than the first. I’m always thankful for my handy-dandy scheduler. 2018 started off with sadness at leaving Korea behind. My flight to Singapore was a day before Giriboy’s concert – what a bummer, especially since he announced the dates a day after I reluctantly bought my return flight. But returning to Singapore has its perks – four months without Singapore food is truly, truly one of the most painful things in the world. I have repeated to so many people that one of the only reasons why I would never really leave Singapore is because of the food – its multicultural nature hits so real that no other government campaigns are necessary to make me want to preserve this city’s diversity.
Even as I try hard to pick out significant moments from the first half of 2018, it seemed to have just floated by… with friends spread about the globe and focused on personal commitments. RC life has finally lost its glitz and glamour, and perhaps returning from Korea really changed my perspective. I can feel myself becoming more grounded with myself, and more accepting of uncertainty – truly so, rather than merely repeating it to convince myself to be so.
The definition of family takes its own turn after exchange – being away really shifts one’s attitudes. Tenuous as my relationship with family might have been, I have to say that staying alone really made me become more assured of my own footing and by extension more willing to accept a reality of how things have settled to be. Emotional management becomes more internally reasoned than externally expressed – though personal struggles with self-confidence and an unstable future come and pass like the tides. I feel… I’ll never really be able to remove these worries, but I’ve come to realise it’s possible to learn how to ease them about in my head.
Reconnected with friends, which is always a comforting, though exhausting experience for me – social energies run low. And I learn true friends are those that understand your decisions to preserve personal well-being.
As mid-year approached, signed up for more jobs to roll in some cash – holding my dreams of returning to Korea and travelling to China post-graduation close to heart. Working for AS7’s Research Nexus was… an enlightening experience. I realise the more jobs I take up, the more I discover the things I do not want to do for the rest of my life – i.e. an office job. Interestingly enough, I spoke to friends about this, and there are people who do find office jobs alright – it really is a difference in attitudes – earning money to do what you want vs doing what you want while earning money (in sum).
Helping out with a friend’s travel start-up was also another experience in and of itself – what a world we live in! Entrepreneurship is really round the corner, and the 21st century has gifted us truly with opportunity. Writing, however, compounds in its complex relationship with me – the more I have to write, the more writing becomes unnatural, distanced.
Of happy news – I become a Seoulbeats editor, removing one writing duty – and then I realised writing is much easier than mentoring and guiding. Also Book Club editorial duties helped me reach the same conclusion.
And so I rolled into Summer with a new bunch of duties, and 2018’s Summer was in its own way life-changing. Headed to Taiwan mid-May and then to Malaysia for a short Summer programme in July (wrote about this in an earlier post). Taiwan remains ever gorgeous, growing increasingly familiar with each visit. Only left that single promise to a friend to visit her in Tainan after graduation. Started learning how to drive – and discovered the joy of learning a new skill – and now I’ve got my driving license even though I need tons more practise.
The most striking change would probably be this wave of lifestyle change that swept over my head in Summer – I started having a get healthy Summer plan. So that meant exercising regularly and eating healthily – fell in love with homecooked food, food that I had not appreciated in my years living in RC and time abroad. Started seeing the value of packed lunches and moderating eating outside. Went back to eating more fruits and cutting down on snacking. Slowly turning into an aunty as I start buying groceries and having the prices of items engraved in my head. Cooking becomes more of a joy, even though it is a hassle. Getting comfortable with being alone and myself.
Scrambled into semester 2 with the determination to eat only homecooked meals and I succeeded! Summer also entailed preparing for Honours Thesis – which was itself a whirlwind ride (and enjoyable one nonetheless). It was a semester juggling thesis, a level 5000 module, and a level 4000 module. I think I deserve a pat on the back – towards the end of the semester, my brain was just a messy fog and a wreck. Still had driving lessons twice a week thrown into the mix, Seoulbeats commitments, and work at the Research Nexus. I wonder how I survived, but I did.
Thesis deserves a special mention – because even though I did less well than I expected, even reading it again, I feel like I reached a level of enlightenment within myself about my relationship with Singapore’s spaces and urban areas as a whole. Writing a paper on entropic decay, urban geography, and literature is a roller coaster ride – and I am never too articulate when it comes to dealing with Singapore’s creative productions. There are always too much emotions and complicated notions entangled with each piece of work. But I still love what I wrote, and I still feel fascinated by my own words:
The very nature of the city-state as an organic entity indicates that it can never truly avoid some degree of entropic collapse, and labour is necessary to keep the city-state’s industry functioning. The crux of the matter is to find ways of importing energies and redirecting loss into more manageable forms—where the government has to recognise itself as equally being an inhabitant of the city-state like its citizens, and necessarily has to recognise the limits of its grasp over the city-state…The constraints of space make material building a tricky issue, where creativity and spontaneity is confined by such a tenuous situation that constantly demands strict management and planning. Creativity and imagination, hence, has to be activated differently in recognising the potential for rigid infrastructures to accommodate shifting meanings… Even as governing bodies constantly push for progress, literary texts about Singapore and Hong Kong indicate that perhaps it is also time for governments to recognise themselves as inhabitants rather than dictators of city-states: they must come to yield complete control over the city-state’s infrastructure, allowing for a more dynamical use of space. A governing body’s compromise makes room for cultivating a citizenry’s imaginative capacity, one that is necessary to constantly revitalise spaces that have been deadened by the day to day routines of labour.
Such beautiful realisations that I would not have come to perhaps without those many days and nights of plagued thoughts, even while having my morning runs and evening showers.
I appreciated my decision to sleep early and wake up early – a routine and habit that has since been cultivated. I admire this city’s quiet streets pre-sunrise and watching the fogs in the morning around UTown and Singapore Polytechnic.
Presented Shifting Concretes for CAPTISS, and realised many younglings really want to make a change in Singapore – go forth! Also exchanged meaningful conversations with other project-doers. Heartened to see how we all care to make change in our own ways. Realised my obsession with space started a long time ago – looking back on the essays I’ve written since Year 1… space really finds its way into almost every other assignment.
The Substation’s Cities Change. People Die. Everything You Know Goes Away. also struck deep in me about the situation of Singapore’s urbanity and the sacrifices we have to make as city inhabitants. “Going, Going, Gone…???” as part of Sub After Dark (SAD) was a blast – I guess I’ll be looking for 歌台 (getai) performances to watch this lunar seventh month. Engaging with heritage and culture, tradition remains a strange and eye-opening act for me – someone who is supposed to be convinced of a pristine modernity, where history is often reproduced as consumable tidbits. A feat to connect with its most grounded forms – and a continued strive to pursue!
Invested in film cameras and film to explore new ways of seeing and creating, of expressing – still trying to master it; I am slowly unravelling its charm.
And then I scrambled into 2019 by taking a flight to Beijing to look for my brother before heading to Guangzhou and Guangxi for a tour with the family. Planning to do a separate post on it, so there’s that – probably in Mandarin too. But all I can say is Guangxi is a true beauty. China continues to fascinate and charm, slowly breaking my preconceptions while filling my heart with joy and stomach with tons of good food.
It was an unexpected two weeks, and I’ve surprisingly made friends. A short 14 days, but the level of emotional turbulence when being thrown into a new environment and having to go around socialising with my brother’s friends – what a personal feat for my poor, ol’ introverted self. Too much alcohol for a year (though New Year is the only time I really do drink, after quitting while in Korea) – and that’s probably it for 2019’s alcohol quota.
Finally reaching the artsy fartsy recap of 2018 – especially music. Literary wise, William Carlos Williams was a joy to discover during my 20th Century Literary Production module. Xu Xi’s “Dear Hong Kong” will forever be precious to me. 《那些杀死你的都并不致命》was also an enlightening read. And as usual, I will run into 2019 hoping to read more of Kim Young-ha’s books, as well as more Singaporean writers.
I started collating monthly playlists somewhere in March, and I’m glad to have heard the thoughts of so many friends who pitched their songs over. I left out October’s and stopped there because of academic workload, so that’s going to go up soon too. I believe that a person’s artistic/musical preferences really reveal some part of who they are – and the interpretative phrases of each month did help me better know these friends, albeit just silently observing on my part. What a joy, nonetheless, to share good music.
Special mention of the film 《一念無明》which made me contemplate what it means to be ostracised and the persistency of biases reinforced in society. It was heartbreaking but a good kind of heartbreaking – and 10/10 worth a watch if you want to feel pensive. Also, 《后来的我们》has a gorgeous script – my heart is yelling so much for it. Sigh.
Songs of 2019 would include stuff like Kang Seung-yoon’s “You,” Day6’s Shoot Me Part 1: Youth album, Han Yo Han’s “1.2GB,” Nucksal’s “팔지 않아” (NFS), Giriboy’s “Hikkikomori,” 茄子蛋’s “浪子回头,” and more. My revived obsession with Jay Chou as well that I wrote an article about him (gosh) – but yes, he is still phenomenal. And then I found 赵雷 – leaving me all sighs for “成都” and “再见北京” – because really, who could write such gorgeous lyrics about a city.
At this particular moment, I’m still reeling from returning from China – after all, I had the pleasure of soaking in the cooling (and at times freezing) weather and all those mountains. 2019 feels unsure, but also reassuring that its uncertainty will allow for possibility and opportunity. I am expectant, fearful, tremendously glad at such a mix of feelings. I am prepared to sprint beyond graduation and a mind-crushing perspective of university education. This is only one portion of life that will pass and then it’s time to pack those bags and head out into a marvellously vast world! I will say to the rest of the world and those gorgeous mountains, Wait for me! I’m coming real soon!