Fourteen Years

On October 22, 1998, I came to Singapore two months after my 16th birthday. I was so young then that I liked to act old and mature, and at the same time still had some happy dreams about my future. Some permanent traits had been shown by then, for example the love of solitude and phobia of social life, the frequent emotional swing, and the first sprout of pessimism. Maybe I have grown up a bit. Maybe I am still as immature. The only significant difference is, my youth is gone. And many things have been foreshadowed, in a somewhat amusing sense, by the younger me; or maybe these were just self-fulfilling prophecies.

We commemorate this day every year, though sometimes I just realised it was the date only on the following day. If I were asked why I do so, my answer wouldn’t be readily available. For me, and for most of us, this day marks a milestone, a division, and a turn, in our life. Our life can be divided into two: before and after we came to Singapore. But there are many other milestones, divisions and turns in our life. I don’t remember the day when I received my job offer. I don’t celebrate graduation anniversaries. Why is this milestone, division and turn so important, so much more significant than others?

At first, when we celebrated the first few anniversaries of arrival, I often said, ‘it’s a long way to go.’ And now I often thought, ‘how time flies!’ When you are still youthful, you tend to see your future life as unreachable, because there will be so many years between you and that imagined future. But when you get older, and most aspects of your life have kind of settled or fixed, you tend to view your uncertain, unstable and undying youth as if it was in a distant past.

And I am two months into my thirties now. I didn’t feel much when I reached 20. But 30 is completely different. Physically ageing starts too early for me. Fatigues occupy my working life and my stamina is in a decline. The possible notions of ‘middle age’ start to loom over my head. It is different from 14 years ago when I was so young that I liked to act old and mature. No, I don’t like it at all. Instead I am now trying to stay young at heart.

Perhaps commemorating the day when we arrived in Singapore can serve as a reminder that we are still young. See, your new life is only 14 years old.