Departing, Lightly


Transient Nostalgia

Volume 8, Issue 01
September 23, 2022

I vividly remember gazing out the window during our drive home from Sunday dinners, with rows of incandescent amber hues that spruced empty streets with rhythmic intervals of strange silhouettes. Beneath the fragmented reflections of the rear window was a peculiar longing to understand every being’s rite of passage – the unraveling of one’s life. I mean, I was clearly too young to be acutely aware of the intensity of this statement; and being only approximately 365 weeks old gave me a considerable 3423 weeks left to live (based on the average lifespan). Indeed, despite knowing that life was before me at my doorstep ready to begin for me, many others that I hold dear began to end. In the momentary darkness of the 45-minute drive home there would usually ensue a tearful whimper, and a puzzled mother and father left with much confusion, but I suppose I’ve never been too good at conveying the cosmic nature of emotion.

How long will this moment last – where I am with them, and them with me?

My father used to talk of his days after college when he left on a one-way ticket to Australia with less than a thousand dollars to his name, telling tales of the frolicsome adventures that sprung forth from youthful exuberance. Growing up he became an evermore alluring prospect and eventually a symbol of liberation, an identity amassed from the predispositions of my parents. The possibility of rooting myself in a romanticized ideal of marriage, incentivized by the state through housing grants and baby bonuses schemes, felt more like a deceptive attempt to ensnare my life in a conventional hold day by day. But of course, ambiguity plagues every decision that we make, and no one has the unequivocal right answer. Recently, I’ve come across an article about how we should be comfortable with mediocrity in our lives, and that we don’t need to strive to be the next savior of the world. The pursuit of absences and the lack thereof in our lives could become an endless chasing of the wind, a race of endless circles. Losing track of time through an insatiable longing is a possible reality – but is it wrong to chase? Am I filling time because I have no prescription for how life should be lived? I’m afraid that away from the busyness with which I occupy myself, if left alone with my own thoughts I might find that I have none. So who dares to inhabit the immeasurable chasm between the understanding of the self and his unraveling, and an antiquated identity sculpted from home as a child?

Well… here we are 939 weeks later (or 18 years), and I’m still in an interminable race to contain the ampule of the hourglass collapsing on me - on all of us. Leaving Singapore was difficult – not so much because I may have made a mistake by departing, but because I may not see you, mom and dad, the same way ever again. Time gained elsewhere are birthdays, baby dedications, and weddings lost there; my affinity to home is waning, and I’m not sure if you will remember me as I was when I left, that little boy on Sunday evenings. The impermanent moments lived have become memories hard to recall, with the shriveling of your hands and feet the only things on my mind. Perhaps the only thing that can hold up the sand is our home – and the feelings of 25 years lived; tethered by weeping nights in the living room over the loss of our silky terrier, 102 degree Fahrenheit fevers with nauseating medicine forcibly fed to me in the dining room, or the night when we witnessed the thrashing of Brazil by Germany in the World Cup over peppery chicken nuggets. Space has become a repository of preludes, prologues, and intermissions (with an inevitable epilogue) that holds the constellations of light and dark – with a hope that I will always see you the way that I did on Sunday evenings as an adolescent.

How do we carry this unbearable lightness?

“Open closed open.
Before we are born, everything is open in the universe without us.
For as long as we live, everything is closed within us.
And when we die, everything is open again.
Open closed open. That’s all we are.”

Yehuda Amichai, 1998