Saturday, 30 April 2005

Thinking out loud

Well, I'm back in SG for a week now. It's time for me to script my overdue review. The past twenty odd days have seen enlightening moments of solitude as well as spirited open discussions with friends. The characters involved are, in order of appearance, mf the protagonist herself, strangers on the streets, Miki, more strangers, YX and SZ (don't be surprised!).

Um, pls bear with my disjoint paras, a manifest of my (sometimes?) disjoint thoughts..

The very first day unleashed a part of me that I didn't know existed. I went to Ikebukuro at 8pm, after Kitty land. Being Asian, I looked just like any other Japanese girl, albeit less fashionable. No one gave me a second look. Perhaps there wasn't anything really interesting to hold my attention but I found my thoughts beginning to stray to the strangers who were walking around me.

It was a rather cold night, I remember. Crowds of salary men in dark suits were passing me by. Groups of people were entering the eateries. Couples were huddling close in the biting wind. Physical vulnerability gives rise to emotional instabilty; suddenly, I felt a pang of loneliness.

The realisation rather surprised me. I didn't remember ever feeling lonely when I was alone. Bored, yes, but not lonely. For me, loneliness always happened in a group setting, when I felt there wasn't anyone to talk to even though I was surrounded by people I actually knew, people I called friends. I've always believed that being alone needs not equate loneliness and conversely, loneliness should not manifest itself only when I'm alone.

But that night, 1 Apr, between 8pm and 9pm, I was facing the undeniable doldrums of loneliness. And I was alone. I chose to embark on this solo trip and I felt lonely on the very first day?!

Then, I had a sudden thought, that how nice it would be if I had a hand to hold! I was reminded of that year in Oxford when I had ex's hand to warm myself as we walked down the wintry cobbled streets. Um, to make it clear, I was thinking of just anyone's hand in the cold, not him in particular.. Seemed that, for the first time in a while, I needed more than just myself. It scared me a little.

After so much of looking forward to Tokyo, arguably one of the most bustling cities on this side of the world, the excitement was all too quickly killed. That cold night at Ikebukuro had shown me the other side of the coin: a sole figure in a big city could be a lonely picture.

Suddenly, all the Jap dramas I watched came back to me. Sena in LV returned to his dark apartment shared with this woman he barely knew after a shitty day at his less-than-ideal job, grabbed a beer from the fridge and ended his day. Teppei (same actor) in Love Gen returned to his apartment from a shitty day at work and obligatory post-work drinks, grabbed a beer from the fridge and ended his day. I'm very sure I don't want that.

I imagine I stay at, say, where my ryokan is, at Chidoricho in southern Tokyo and I work in Shinjuku. Like the many I saw on my way to Hakone during Mon morning rush hours, I have to squeeze with 10,000 other molds of me in the private railway for 30min before changing to an equally crowded JR train to come out 15min later into a city of people moving as one, which (almost) systematically splits to move into their respective escalator or exit. Only, if I were one of them, I would be doing that every day. At this point, it becomes unimaginable.

Feeling tiny in Tokyo should not be strange, I guess. It is a big place afterall and the language is, while not exactly alien, it is not one I'm totally at ease with. That said, I wonder if language actually plays a part. What if I change the setting to.. HK? Then the Jap dramas are replaced by all the city novels by Amy Cheung, stories of urbanites who live alone with their aimless pursuits. I don't think I want that either.

Guess I have been naive..

It was little wonder how happy I was to be able to meet up with Miki on my return from Hakone. In the short four hours, we covered a fair bit of our lives since our last meeting years back. We talked about our friends, our respective relationships, our ideals. It's strange yet comforting to know that even though we have not been in close regular contact all this while, I always feel very at ease with her. Perhaps she's like the elder sister I never had, providing me with much guidance and a listening ear, yet never ever judging me, and willing to share herself with me too.

The days in Tokyo passed very quickly, especially the last two days when Na was there. We were too rushed and then too beaten to talk much about anything.

I was slightly under the weather by the time I reached SFO, where I spent my longest period of true R&R ever. The days of doing almost nothing apart from rare walks into campus and two visits to the city reminded me of the valuable days in between assignments and terms when slacking was totally permissible. But they were always interrupted by Bayesian or Euler. Those days allowed me to collect my thoughts, undisturbed.

Two particular late night chats with YX left me with things to ponder over. One was, as I've mentioned before, a general discussion on religious beliefs but I guess that's not the purpose of this entry. The other was all about ourselves, our problems and uncertainties.

What I've realised about myself is that, I don't know what I want - yet. There were times in the past when people asked me what exactly I wanted, my next birthday present, or if I was shopping, a particular top in whatever particular colour. My answer was usually that I didn't know what I wanted, but I knew what I didn't want and I would know what I wanted when I saw it. If you're still following this weird train of thoughts, may I continue that I now suspect that that forms the mould of my very (passive) being, that, be it a material thing or something more intangible/important, like my career, or in terms of relationship, I don't know what I want but I know what I don't want and I'll only know what I want when the thing I want falls right in front of me.

It was the morning before the day I left, I think, when I chatted with SZ via MSN. Realised that actually we were both in rather similar situations in sec school but being the way we were (are?), we never knew until almost ten years later. We were never close in sec school. In fact I myself wasn't all that close with my class at all. If we did not go to the same JC and ended up in the same class, I tolde her that we would probably nod and go our separate ways if we happened to bump on the streets today, if we didn't pretend not to recognise each other in the first place, as had happened with some other people.

It reinforced my rather recent belief in this thing called karma. I read about it at about the same time when Yan first shared with me on the same subject. I've since recognised its possible existence but I have yet to figure out for myself what form it takes for me. Reason is there are things that are caused by too many coincidences for them to be mere coincidences. Like, if I didn't hate being in my sec school (class; to be fair, I enjoyed my ECA, as they were then called), I wouldn't have gone to NJ while the majority went to another. Similarly for SZ, or we wouldn't have ended up in the same class. And Na had wanted to go another JC but there she was, a blue uniform of a different shade, else we would never have known her. And the so many people who could have gone anywhere but they made this choice, which led to the KLK of today. Karma pretty much sums up 天时,地利,人和!

The day before I left reminded me of the days leading to 26 Sep 2003, when Oxford officially became part of my memories. It was as if I was going to lose something, combined with the fact that I was returning to face the reality of working for survival. Really, that's what it is right? If I don't need to eat, I will not work; I'll travel and I'll dance and sing and perhaps learn how to paint or play the piano. But no, everyone needs to eat.

Well, there is no conclusion; it should suffice that I have found no major regret in my life thus far, only some cracks and road blocks along the way, and mostly beautiful scenery. I feel that I should be, and rightfully so, grateful for all that has happened to me, both the good and the bad. Because I like the mf you see now, the mf shaped by her past. May not be perfect but perfection can be a scary thing for flesh and blood..

And so the long bout of on-off moodswings since end of Jan (yes, it's been that long) has come to an end with my trip. What happens from this moment will further influence the mf of tomorrow. I'll continue, happily, with my existence until I figure out what's in store for me and take it from there. However a dull existence to the unknowing eye, it's still mine and man, am I going to have fun!


  1. you are not the only one who does not know what they want... it is indeed easier to select by process of elimination.. well, that's how i made my decision all the time... sc

  2. I haven't really figured out what I want in life either ;) Just as you said, I do know what I DON'T want, and a vague sense of what I want (at the moment, it's something like 'reaching for the stars' :p). Impt thing is, when what you want does fall into your lap, quickly seize the opportunity! You won't regret it, even if it eventually turns out to be something you don't want after all.

  3. I want a hug when that happens, when the world is falling....
    just a hug, just a hug that's all....



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