First love presents itself as stomach-turning butterflies, a palpitating heart and infinite nervousness. When he is near, you find yourself unable to think straight; when he kisses your cheek for the first time, it feels as though you've just won an Olympic gold medal for your country. You're proud and ecstatic and have no fear. You don't know what's coming next, except that the world feels as if it doesn't exist when you're in his arms. When his lips touches yours, you feel as though your legs can no longer take the weight of your happiness. You don't think about the future because what could possibly go wrong? You are here and he is with you and everything feels so right.
But then all of a sudden everything is torn away from you when you least expect it. He leaves as quickly as he entered, leaving a storm of dust behind in his wake, and the ashes of the future that you never spared much thought to anyway. You are down on your knees, trying to gather the ashes but you fail; the tears streaming down your face are clouding your eyes. He left you with no map, no road signs to navigate the aftermath of his departure, and his absence has left you more lost than you have ever been before. So this is what it feels like to your heart broken for the first time. People try to make you feel better. They tell you it gets better with time, but maybe you don't want it to get better. You never want to forget the best moments of your life.
I can never seem to get over the dichotomy between wanting my voice to be heard, and risk revealing too much of myself when writing. They always seem to go hand-in-hand—but if I had it any other way, my voice will be heard without revealing too much of myself.
Perhaps this dilemma is subjective, because no two writers work the same way. Nevertheless, I believe all writers write from what they know—even fiction writers. Their writing may not be real, but these writers create from within themselves. These little snippets of inspiration are then morphed and manipulated to take on multiple disguises, but once you peel back the layers of final product—the final story—you will find that the story is just a manifestation of fragments of the writer’s life.
As Sylvia Plath, one of my literary heroes aptly put: “I write only because there is a voice within me that will not be still.” In order to unpack this “writer’s quagmire,” it is essential to revisit my motivations for writing. I primarily write to make better sense of the jumble of thoughts in my head. When the thoughts come they always come thunderously, ricocheting off the walls of my brain, absorbing the energy off each other, beating violently on the walls of my head. These thoughts then translate to overwhelming emotions that I cannot seem to get past. I often tremble ever so slightly—I may be imagining this (but what is real?)—while I open a word document or pen and paper and attempt to translate these thoughts and feelings into words.
Any Singaporean who hasn’t been living as a hermit would have heard by now all the fuss surrounding the ban of the marching song “Purple Light”—an integral part of a Singaporean National Serviceman’s life. For those unaware of this issue, this article sums it up. The main problem lies in the line “rape my girlfriend”—in some cases “rape” is replaced with the word “beat” which similarly promotes violence against women.
While it makes me proud that we’ve moved one step forward in the fight to end such misogynistic ideology, the negative reactions surrounding the ban just proves that there are still an infinite amount of people who aren’t on the same boat with regards to striving for gender equality. The comments on it surrounding the whole issue just appalls me and honestly makes me want to break down and cry. Examples are articles like this that poke fun at the issue and make light of it—and their accompanying comments from Facebook users. This isn’t what progress means. They say Singapore has achieved many feats within mere a couple of decades but in this aspect, we have remained stagnant and so far behind many other countries. I would like to problematize many other issues that plague Singapore’s supposed success, but in this piece I’d like to voice my responses to the negative reactions surrounding the “Purple Light” ban.
As someone born and raised in different countries, who resides in a country I didn’t grow up in, and who’s been on extended travels, I’ve been fortunate to experience living apart from my family and my comfort zones. While I often highlight the desirable aspects of life in these different places, I never realized that I could be painting a rather inaccurate picture of these experiences to a third party—until I came across an interesting read online, written by someone who’s gone on a University exchange trip—beckoned by promises of incredible fun and exoticism of foreign lands, as painted by fellow University-exchange-trip alumni—and not entirely loving the experience.
I would like to refrain from directly linking the article in question, but would like to be entitled to give my two cents’ worth, even if it means cowardly hiding behind the security of a computer screen and avoiding being embroiled in an episode of cyber-debates.
I never realized that by emphasizing on bright lights and happy things could give those unfamiliar with such an experience the impression that everything would be more or less fine and dandy if one were to move across continents and try to live in a place so obnoxiously different from what he or she is used to. Granted, not everyone may be unable to decipher the trials and tribulations between the lovely pictures and excited blog posts, but I believe travel has been far too romanticized and exoticized.
Thanks to pure coincidence and many blessings, aside from getting to spend precious time with my father—which I am eternally grateful for, no doubt—I found myself indulging in a few days of luxury last week at a hotel I could probably never afford for at least the next half of a decade. To think I used to think little of the immense breakfast spreads at such hotels because I could never stomach so much food that early in the morning, and because I never paid attention to the importance of breakfast all those years back.
Talking about coincidence—to top off the Dad of yours truly being in town for a business conference—I found kpop groups Exo and Girls’ Generation breezing past in front of me as though it was the most normal thing ever. The night prior to our last day at the hotel, we found a significant number of people—mostly teenage girls—waiting outside. Curiosity led us to find out they were waiting for a kpop group. Soon after, with some help of beloved Google, I found out there was a kpop concert scheduled for the next day at Nangang Exhibition Centre.
If I were the education minister, I would implement Women’s Studies (or Gender Studies) as a compulsory class in either elementary or high school. Although I’m able to foresee the immense number of opposing views this will get, I still believe fervently in exposing children (or teenagers) to feminism at the earliest age possible. I’ll leave educators and psychologists—they obviously have to be feminists too—to determine the appropriate age to integrate such classes into the compulsory school curriculum.
Ideally, we will be able to re-construct our deep-seated gender roles and eliminate intersectional discrimination. It’s quite obvious that in reality these will not be happening anytime soon, if it were to happen at all. While I have hope that these will be possible in the future, I’m certain it will not be happening in the next few decades.
Before anyone is already turned off by this post so far, thanks to the bad rap attached to feminism--think militant aka bra-burning feminists of yesteryears—which I am not ridiculing, such methods might have been applicable to that time and place and since that time but place has changed, those methods are definitely inappropriate—here are some very important things to note about feminism (These points aren’t exactly original, however they’re what I believe in, what I’ve deduced from experience and from my engagement with feminist discourse of various forms):
I regularly earn myself grimaces and looks of bewilderment from peers in my particular area of study when they find out I’m taking senior English classes and loving them. Most are glad to have seen the last of their hundred-level compulsory English classes. Many remain disinterested in (still) lesser-known fields like Gender Studies. (I have to highlight that Gender and Women’s Studies are extremely interdisciplinary fields. Read more about why you should take a Gender or Women’s Studies course.) While I cannot say that other non-humanities majors share the same views as the majority in my faculty, there are still many non-believers in the humanities within and outside of academia.
Although I owe a big part of my love for English literature to my parents for creating a book-loving environment for me since childhood, my appreciation for the humanities goes far beyond loving to read. Even though I don’t hold any disdain for those not actively engaged and invested in the humanities and I am thoroughly sorry for coming off as condescending, I feel that not being actively engaged and invested in the humanities propagates inadequacies in holistic and profound thought. My point is that engagement and personal investment in the humanities is essential in understanding and engaging in social issues.
As a Singaporean at heart I found this article “Wealth Over the Edge: Singapore“ in The Wall Street Journal quite thought-provoking and interesting. For the first part of the article, writer Shibani Mahtani underscores the exorbitant wealth flourishing among the richest in Singapore. This isn’t new information, with Singapore recently making headlines as the country with the highest concentration of millionaires per capita according to the World Wealth Report 2012. If all this richest-in-the-world talk is setting alarm bells off in your heads like it did in mine, be somewhat heartened (but not quite) that the article also highlights that “Singapore’s “Gini coefficient”—the best-known economic measure of income disparity—is the second highest in the developed world.” To my knowledge, the article is right that “signs of unhappiness are multiplying.”
To say the least, Singapore means so much to me but while I believe it’s a great, prosperous young country for the fast-moving, affluent, well-educated and elite young, it’s not a place for everyone. I acknowledge that I’ve just made a heavily loaded comment but lest I write a novel justifying why I believe it’s not a place for everyone, I’ll settle with the fact that the fissures have long been present in the paradisiacal crystal globe of a city-state. The cracks and crevices will only grow deeper with every progress in prosperity and neglect for those hanging on for dear life at the other end of the spectrum—those who have been marginalized and do not have access to the same opportunities as others thanks to social constructs. The struggles of those caught in the middle with little room for progress yet are a little more “fortunate” than their compatriots in the lower rungs of society—are irrefutable, and I know this from having experienced it first-hand.