Lately I’ve been on a bender of nostalgia. I can’t remember when it all started, but it seems like the new in thing to engage in these days-- reminiscing for a past, an anchor in the vast sea of life that I’ve barely strayed away from. In truth, I do not know what is it that I seek. It starts off, like all other unquantifiable anxieties, as an unease manifesting in the back of my mind whenever the hours get late. 11pm- the witching hour. I stare out of my window, taking in the concrete landscape below sightlessly without particularly looking out for anything, and think about how foreign I am, in my own tiny island country.
One might argue that “foreign” is too strong a word to use in this context. I have lived here for many years - and I think, if nothing majorly life-changing were to happen, I will remain here for many more. To be foreign in a place which I have been almost my entire life seems like a paradox that cannot be reconciled. However, upon further inspection, I’ve come to find that perhaps such a concept is not as impossible as one might imagine it to be. Even in a densely populated, densely planned, almost claustrophobic society such as Singapore- to be a local foreigner in such a setting is not an impossibility.
Very firstly- to dispel the implausibility of the notion of a foreigner on home soil. it is entirely possible to live an entire life without ever fully coming to understand your environment. For many, the luxury of being able to fully explore even one’s immediate surroundings is one that they cannot afford to take. More often than not, our lives revolve around a simple routine of home, work, and back again. Along the well-worn roads we tread, the concrete crunching below our shoes siphoning away at the years of our lives - another day lost, another follows, and the days tumble into weeks, months, years - living the bulk of our lives not having once looked to break from the monotony of the dozen square miles we traverse, like robots pre-programmed to follow a routine. I call my township my home, yet if a foreigner stops me to ask for directions, it is more than likely that I will be just as lost as they are. What lies beyond your routine, dear stranger, native to this land? It pains me to admit so, but I hardly know myself.
Secondly- the concept of home itself. Home suggests familiarity, like a place where you would come in and know exactly where everything lies. Picture a mental map a child forms, when getting acquainted with their immediate surroundings. Every inspection of their surroundings builds another layer of understanding upon their map, until they are completely and absolutely familiar with all that lies where they should be - an unchanging constant. If an object is removed, however, a mental afterimage remains of what is gone, long after the physical object has vanished. Imagine a setting in constant flux, where the afterimages clash with each other until one can no longer discern the scene of the present from the flurry of history that surrounds its past. Such is the state of Singapore. A society constantly in a state of flux, where the old and familiar is replaced by newer, shinier prospects, plastic and pristine, a modern ship of Theseus. How can I claim to be at home, in a home which I do not recognise from my vision of yesterday? I remember the old convenience store which smelled of incense, where a Citizen’s Corner now stands. I remember the old fruit stands on the side of the street down the bus stop, the tangy smell of overripe fruit now replaced by the sterile stillness of family clinics. I remember my home, but only as it appeared before today. Foreign in my own skin, in a world that changes too fast for me to settle on an idea of home.
Every day, I travel a paradox, following a routine which transforms itself in tandem with the progress of time. Once in a while, I take a hard look at my surroundings, and realise how alien it seems to me now. Every day, I am a traveler at home, through static routes of yesteryear lined with the uncertainty of tomorrow.
i'm tired. most of this was written on coffee, adrenaline, and lack of sleep.
this is almost completely unedited, because i feel like i'm most honest when i'm tired. whatever i've written here is me baring my insecurities of living life, not knowing much at all about where i live, despite having been here almost my entire life. singapore is small, but my horizons are somehow smaller. what a darn shame, isn't it?
i tried my best to catch all my errant thoughts here, as best as i can. it's a bit of a mess, which i suppose is a reflection of my inner self when writing this. not my proudest work, but an honest one, at least. i can live with that.