Damn it's September 1. Happy Teacher's Day I guess. This has always been an ironic day for me, this coming from a progeny of a retired educator who has served over 30 years in Singapore's educational system. I never wished my mother. Don't think I ever will.
I had an acquaintance back in secondary school. We never spoke much, but trained together for track and field briefly. We were in the same 'color' house. Not because I was particularly interested in track, you get forced into these things if you showed a little promise. She said to me once, "I love my mother, but I hate the school principal". I share the same sentiment somehow. Among other issues beyond my control which I had to conform.
Pressure from the duality of such sentiments is unimaginable. At an equally unimaginable age where change and realization hits you repeatedly and relentlessly. An age of way too many forks in the road requiring immediate crossing.
I was also raised in a pro PAP family who believes reverently in the esteemed blue circle split and halved by the divine red lightning bolt, the die-hard supporters of Goh Cheok Tong. They would appear regularly at grassroots meetings and community gatherings.
There was a period of time in my youth where it felt like I practically lived at the neighborhood RC centre. I took part as a volunteer at my first PAP rally at age 14 during the 1992 by-elections. PAP won and Marine Parade remained uncontested for the next 19 years, challenged only during the last elections. And won again, maintaining her status as the resolute stronghold for the ruling party. I doubt this would change come 2016.
I felt truly constrained and even more restrained by this path I took growing up, besides the countless hours of music lessons and weekend after weekend of Sunday school. Just a couple of months ago, my dad gave me a copy of his brother's latest book, another published edition of Daily Bread-esque literature. The man literally holds a PHD in theology. My life, WASP in Singaporean style.
But I've always known I was different. Not the rebellious age, do things ridiculously opposite type of different. It's the deep rooted, non peer pressure induced kind of different. The wired in a different manner, class of different.
At some point I made the conscious decision to exert my individuality and I made it early. Stuck stubbornly to it and never second guessed because I was sure.
I stopped going to church straight after my 'O' levels examinations, found work that demanded the strangest working hours and struggled with them with tertiary classes hours included. Excuses for not spending so much time at home or to even come home at all. I would be absent for weeks, months and eventually years. In the ensuing elections, the only rallies I attended were all opposition.
Especially on the subject of my sexual orientation. They could never wrap their heads around it. When I was 27, the side-stepping and evasive maneuvers had gone on long enough. I returned their calls one day and simply told my mother. I'm coming home and I'm bringing someone home with me. They haven't seen me in almost 2 years at that point. My last 3 relationships lived with me under their roof.
Inevitably, the woman I want wouldn't be a writer with aspirations and passions intertwined. She wouldn't be the muse to inspire me towards the greater and finer purposes in life. She wouldn't be my fellow food hoover or tech geek that speaks in our personal language. She also wouldn't be that gamer chick donned in headset, looking like a telemarketer. Most of all, she wouldn't be the one asking if I would marry her.
She would be the one where I can ask her father for her hand in marriage.
I found myself in one of those meetings, 30 minutes that overran to 2.5 hours. I wished it went on forever, a point in time that remained locked. Like a save point in windows OS where you could revert whenever. Why? So many levels to that moment. I don't even know where to begin.
The last four places I was at, idea generation sessions were the norm, and complaints were mostly along the lines of what's the point, it'll get shot down, suits won't know how to sell this, the boss will always say no, we're just a production house with no new tricks. My job was to instill inspiration. You give me 100, I'll sell 1. That's the ratio, keep going. It's the same with tag lines. I miss that terribly.
Brainstorming sessions, conversations about ideas, people letting down their guard and putting all sorts of wonky out there. I learnt and was taught that brilliance came from failure. Some bad brain farts becoming bright sparks. Teflon, the refrigerator coolant gas that became a non-stick sensation. Post-It, the super strong adhesive that didn't quite stuck. These are never a waste of time. The turnaround, it's what you make of it that tips the scales.
During that meeting, I observed passion coming to life. Glints in eyes with genuine excitement and smiles whenever a good one comes along. I'm not sure if it's my luck, I usually end up in places where the environment is a bummer, for some reason or other. I meet people with their dreams sucked out of them. For a long time I'd always thought it was the industry that churned out jaded souls. Or this country that dumbed down sincere ideas and innovation. We always feel judged and the need to self-censor. I've been exposed to different nationalities and cultures from a young age. My family is one of mixed marriages from mixed territories. We speak often, we speak of differences - things that make me feel small and what's out there, unimaginably vast. I crave the nomadic existence and at some point, I will get there, for a little bit, and continue my stories. But I'll always love my country and my people, them which I call family.
The meeting dragged and became a drone. There's always a lapse in these meets, where sometimes we zone out trying to come up with something spiffy and nifty. I started to scribble in longhand, some silly anecdote. And I looked up. Out, through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The rain, she has arrived. It was a light shower while I stared. Like tiny snow flakes, gentle descend, undulating cascades. Then her gusto grew. Like bits of hail smashing against the concrete ceiling on the opposite building. Rattle, tattle.
Slowly around the room starts to wake and take note of her presence. She has such an effect doesn't she? Signifier of the start to renewed life and born again beginnings. Refreshing reboot. Walks in the rain, her touch on your skin, her smell in your nose, her taste in your mouth and in your eyes where everything seems to sparkle. Someone remarked, echoing my thoughts, breaking my daydream. It made me smile right to the eyes. Snowflakes and snow globes. Finding Gaia - Utopia.