Civilian life


I should be sleeping now. I had just braved 14 hours of flight, a 2-hour transit, then another 7 hours of flight again. I am physically exhausted, unwell, and hungry. With the girl beside me on the airplane coughing like mad, I am not quite sure if I had caught the flu. I should be sleeping now, but my first night back in Sydney after more than a month of being on the European roads has led me to feel emotionally overwhelmed, and this would be the perfect time to blog.

I’ve had 2 crying fits so far. One on the airplane back to Sydney, another here, in my room. I feel like I’m supposed to come home from my travels and to feel like I’m home, but instead, I came to Sydney, and I’m having a hard time figuring out if this feels like home. I have met my parents briefly on the transit in Singapore, mainly to pass them souvenirs, and I was gone in a moment. Funny how traveling from one side of the world to the other side can make me so emotional. Different time zones, currencies, weather forecasts, accents…it’s complicated, troublesome, yet…a mark of freedom. A blessing.

The month flew by fast. I enjoyed myself, and was very busy every day, and hence felt like I did not have the time and energy to digest my adventures while I was there. Now, when it’s over, it’s almost like everything came crashing down at once, every emotion, every thought, memory, sense, and I find myself struggling to unpack my thoughts.

One of my most vivid memory was that in Leicester Square. It was a fine evening, and Katerina and I were passing by, just to see a crowd of people surrounding a street basker. He was good—like really good. Holding an acoustic guitar, he sang to Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’, the melody enveloping the whole place and setting the perfect mood. Kate and I stood still, and listened like the others, because he was so good. The streets look after it had just rained. It was beautiful.

On the plane, I heard it again. I close my eyes, and I could instantly picture the scene in my mind, I was instantly transported back to Leicester Square. Tears streamed down my eyes. It wasn’t just because I was sad to leave—not so simple. I couldn’t exactly place my hands on why. I was immensely grateful to God, I think it was that London has been my dream for the longest time (about 10 years) and the realization that I have been there just comes down on me all at once. Then I pictured future me, years down the road, looking at photos and reliving the memories. I wonder how I would have felt. Would I feel like how I felt when I relived Japan pictures? Langkawi pictures? I wasn’t that attached to those places. Would the memory feel fresh in my mind, or distant? I had prayed that my memories stay vivid.

Another thought that made me cry was the concept of time. Hostels, luggage, accents, coach trips, London underground—all these things only occur once. Isn’t it weird? Time passes in a linear way, when that moment is gone, it is gone forever, and new memories grow stronger in replace of old ones. There can be only one flower there at one point, one moment, one accent, that particular flavor in borough market, that particular note echoing in Queen’s Theatre. Even if I went back to London again and did the same things again, it won’t be the same.

I started to think about the near future—the time when I must return to Singapore. I have been so used to being on the road, having personal space, living alone…I’m not sure if I can adjust back to the sheltered life of a Singaporean kid living with parents anymore. I had my own bank statements, my own days planned, my own curfew, own dinners taken care of, own friends, own documents to sign and no one to account to. With independence comes great power. Not that I ever exploited that power, but this independent lifestyle of mine is about to come to an end and it is my biggest fear.

The past month felt like I’m having a gypsy life, jumping from one city to the next, with no plans, no itinerary, just going. It is not a holiday. It is being ON THE GO. I thought of a Sherlock parallel that brings tears to my eyes…I felt like John, John Watson adjusting to civilian life. John had been in military service in Afghanistan, and since I am so attached to the series, I never thought it would impact me this way.

Going back to Singapore felt like adjusting to normal, civilian life again. Returning to one state and adjusting—I have to bear in mind that it is a closure of one chapter of my story and the opening of the next…doesn’t mean it is not going to be beautiful. Because heck, just when I thought my life had ended in February this year, a lovely European chapter unfolded before my very eyes…

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