I remember many things – I can’t believe that 2016 has just passed me like that; how it has been a year in which I didn’t have to make any dramatic transitions, moving from locale to locale, settling into new places and people – I’ve joined a new beat at work, gotten a new boss, almost got transferred out, made new friends and met new colleagues. I’ve also made interesting acquaintances with people with wonderful stories to tell. And outside of work, I’ve gone to KL, I’ve met Arumy in Indonesia and then reunited with her here in Singapore, I ran that photography programme with Aidha, I became fast friends with Lilly, I’ve helped organise and market two photo exhibitions, and I caught up with other Lensational friends like Bonnie, Lucile and Carl/Magda. I also did pole, including a showcase; I’ve become braver and stronger, learnt to get used to the rhythms of work, reconciled myself with more things in the family…I’m proud of myself for learning fast, for proving the doubts that my past self had wrong.
I got a little angry at work today and I must remind myself not to get so agitated at work. It is not worth it and I must continue to take mark of where I have been based on my own efforts alone, not external structures. After all, haven’t I spent so much time in London wresting with the same thing? I was talking to L a few days ago and started thinking about D. For the longest time thinking about him made me feel unseated; it will dig up this curl of something that i never knew was inside. But now I just feel wistful, and am slowly letting go of whatever residual anger or pettiness I still harboured within me. I will never be the person that I was in that way again. And he will never be who he was. I see photographs of him now, with other people, and the facade has changed. The old softness of his cheeks, the petulant look. The slight swagger when I went out to meet him and the way he would approach from afar. The days when we spent stumbling around Little India and River Valley on the weekends. The times when I wanted so much to measure up to him I was prepared to transform myself wholly, because I’ve always felt that I was living in his shadow. He was the one who opened my eyes to how much I have the tendency to use with people I am with as mirrors of the recesses of myself – and I later learnt how that was unhealthy. I stacked every detail of myself up against his and never learnt to let go – the parental background, the types of friends we had, the schools we went to, the way we dealt with life’s injustices, the way we navigated difference. But from this naive posturing I also learnt good things from him: how to be strong, how to be different, how to grow on my own and become better at things I thought were impossible for me. I remember when he laughed at how I’ll mispronounce words and casually attribute it to my heartlander background. I remember how my parents seemed so unworldly compared to his. I remember how he always said I was smart but then seemed to unconsciously nitpick at my lack of sophistication when it came to new places and new things. I learnt. When he left me I met Jade who told me how I was the one who was ready for the world, not him. After that I slowly built myself up. I learnt to forgive myself and not be so harsh on myself. I learnt to celebrate what I had learnt from him and found people who brought out the best in me without making me feel small – my friends told me that for the longest of times when I was with him, I did not seem happy with myself. And I knew it. Deep in my heart I knew I was unhappy, but I wanted to run away from it. And I grew further and further from people like A, who came to visit me in Europe last summer. And it was so bad. I remember how it was already June, but up on that bridge in Bosnia she started crying and we had a great fight. I faulted her for being needy; she told me she feared that I would end up like her sister (but worse) and become this wandering girl who loses herself to the world and succumbs to the darkness. I cried again, because I wish she had this capacity to understand the darkness in me; I cried because I felt helpless and like there was no way I could improve.
But I improved. I improved despite D who told me I was gone, I improved because of Jade who always told me I was good. I improved, somehow, and sometimes I succumb but here on this island I am surrounded by the good people who know how it is like to be me and I can now rationalize about why I am who I am and why I have come to be this way. And I invest all my effort and feelings in my words and my work, because I feel like it is teaching me about life – how to be a better artist, how to better tell stories. And if I make this my life’s work, not reporting, but just writing and understanding – I think I can be someone who can make some kind of mark in this world, no matter what happens to me, no matter where and who with I end up . But I know in my heart that there is a place for me, and maybe I have to seek it consciously, maybe I don’t; but I trust that time will unfurl and buoy me along to the place that is just right for me. Because things always happen with a reason, mysterious that this life is. I miss being able to be idealistic with such wild abandon; I want to continue to stay this way. Like I said last time in London, I will never be defeated by anything. And like what D told me, ages and ages ago, I am a wildflower, a rare breed of my own. I no longer have to prove anything to anyone – I just have to do it for myself.