Letters to Friends

The opposite of love is not hate but indifference“.
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 I feel that more people need to get to know this truth. Like you said, love is not just rainbows and butterflies. It comes incorporated with thorns and grit, those of which one has to be willing to overcome in order to lift their beloved up.

It’s interesting to see how our respective family circumstances have led us to develop different views and affected the ways we interact with the people in this world. When I was younger, I’ve always wondered why my parents NEVER fought with each other. I’ve wished for my family to be more “dysfunctional”, translated into my adult thoughts now – more “alive”, more “normal”.

It make sense now why I thought like that (which in the past I’ve mentally slapped myself across my face for having such inauspicious thoughts). The opposite of love is indifference. And indifference was what I gave me the nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right with my family.

Hence, unlike you, I don’t fall in love so easily. Or in fact, I don’t really know what love is and therefore didn’t proceed to fall into it. I just get attracted to people because of their physical aspects (which is EXTREMELY short-lived) or their achievements (which translate into my attempts to emulate what they have done albeit without much success).

I know that everyone has a core which is genuine and nice and true, like you’ve mentioned. And that is something which is believe in. But sometimes, it is much easier to judge people based on what you can see, the layers of facades they put on, as opposed to digging deep beneath the surface. Personally, I feel that I lack the skills and knowledge to do the digging (easy to blame it on my indifferent family too) which is why most relationships leave me highly unsatisfied.

Past me used to think that this dissatisfaction is due to a character flaw, a personal failing on my part. I thought to myself all the time,” Maybe I’m not connecting with someone because I’m not good enough for the person to want to get to know me better. He/she is uninterested in my uninteresting self.” And that drives me into the whole cycle of trying to please others, devoting so much energy into that and failing to see deep into the other person’s soul.

I have always found conformity disdainful. It was a feeling I have always harboured, way back in primary school, a nagging sense of discomfort at the corner of my heart as I stood in line, reciting pledges mechanically, standing straight in crease-free uniforms I had ironed meticulously.

I think we are not presented with much choices from young, if we are shoveled into the same MOE education pipeline as everyone else. It was either conform, or suffer the consequences of not doing so. Choose the light or be cast out into the shadows. It’s a kind of conditioning that definitely caused our individualism to wither away.

We are spending so much time worrying about striving for the ONLY standard of success determined by grades that we are blind to our inherent human differences in the way lives can best be lived.

I certainly do blame Singapore’s society, the collective blind following of rigidly placed ideas, the refusal to question traditions that no longer work, the shaming of those who fail to fit the old mould. I know I’ve invested an immense amount of energy reaching for these “standards” (oh well Nanyang, Hwachong etc.). Now, I am very aware that the realization that it could have all been put to better use feels very much like being bitten in the ass.

Anger is the main emotion I sense towards the society as a whole. I am angry that soulless, materialistic and dead achievements are being prioritized and used to determine someone’s worth. I am angry that all these wrong concepts are allowed to be carried on for so long, such that it is entrenched in our cultures, such that we experience it the moment we emerge from our mother’s wombs, no living moment spared. I am angry that the detrimental side effects of this aren’t regarded as evidence that this culture is not working, but are instead seen as mental illnesses or social problems which must be fixed.

Which is why I think we experience difficulty in accepting ourselves for who we are, having basically internalized these norms and the dreadful consequences of deviation. Believing that we are full of flaws that need fixing in order to have a happy and good life.

I think you and I are both gradually coming to a point when we open our eyes and be like “Why can’t I do this since I feel like it? Who said I should behave in this manner?” Sometimes, I get that but liberating moments like that are scarce and few. I learn that I am absolutely terrified of the judgement of others, similar to what you go through. “I’m being selfish”, “I’m being insensitive”.The thing is, these judgments are all imaginary and tend to be heavily negative. Shitty thing is these thoughts are so very much habituated in our minds it is still difficult to change.

 

Anyway did I tell you about my streak of bad luck? Firstly I got fired from Robinsons. As a result I went on a wild goose chase all the way to Bishan to try to get myself employed. I was told there were no positions the moment I stepped into the agency!! Annoying! As a result, I signed up for a one off job at the airport. Changi is like one day away from Jurong. So I travelled there, weary and zombified, only to be told my name was not on the workers’ list! So I sat there for 30 mins while my patience seeped out of me slowly. THEN. They realised I didn’t have my IC with me and could potentially be a terrorist treat and refused to let me enter the freaking restaurant! I was fucking mad at the end but had no choice to spend another day travelling home!!!!

你好,

 我是诗淇。我妈要我传这些给你。

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