we’ve all grown

by rachel

This blog was initially started up as a space for me to document my CAS journey, and also as a back-up of all my CAS reflections, considering how so many of the seniors had cautioned us about the reliability (or lack thereof) of Managebac. But now that CAS is drawing to a close, I think I might take the time to make this a slightly more personal blog on the days that I feel like it. I do still have a couple more CAS reflections that are begging to be written and I will get around to doing them but this will slowly transit to be a space that is more than just that as well.

If you’re someone who knows me and are reading this because you’re hoping to see me write very specific things about the people that I (possibly we) know, let me just clarify from the get-go that that’s not going to happen. I have other, non-online, platforms for that and don’t feel the need to share that aspect of my life so publicly. However, this space will be personal, just in other ways – I will try to be as honest as I can about the things I choose to write about here and, in that way, share a little bit about who I am and how I see the world.

There’s something that’s been on my mind a lot this year – very likely because we are so close to being done and leaving this bubble. After 6 years together in this school, it can get a little claustrophobic at times. I don’t mean this personally at all. At the end of the day I have zero regrets about coming to this school. It’s given me so much space to try and figure out who I am as a person and to find out more about the things that I love. But 6 years in a cohort with the same 150 people and it gets a little tiring. The people we were at 12-13 are, no doubt, very different from the people we are now. Yet sometimes when stuck in the same environment for so long, I feel like we hold each other up to expectations that our 13 year old selves have set. I don’t know if this is something I’m imposing upon myself or if something that I’m merely acknowledging but I’ve brought it up with a couple of people and I think we do all kind of feel the same way.

Perhaps it is for this reason that I, so badly, want to study overseas. I just quite frankly don’t really want to go to university in a setting where there are people who already have perceptions of who I am. It’s nothing personal I have against anyone, really. I think that’s just sort of the way I am – same reason why I chose to come here so many years ago I suppose – it was a break from most people who I knew/ who knew me. There are people I still keep in touch with from so many years ago, the same way I’m sure there will be people who I still keep in touch with from this period of my life many years on. But I think at this point what I’m seeking is sort of a new start to figure out, once again, who I am and who I want to be.

That being said, I am genuinely grateful for the people around me. Yesterday I spent a little bit of time writing something about that feeling but I don’t think I’ve quite gotten to the core of what it is yet. Nevertheless, here it is, in all the glory of a raw draft.

Last night as I was walking home, I saw how the stars shone so brightly, a rare occurrence in our light polluted sky. I raised up my phone to take a picture. I couldn’t catch it. But I realised that as I let my eyes rest upon the sky, star after star burnt its way out of the night sky, with a fervency that declared the space as its own, unwavering against the fluorescent glow of a hdb car park, a street lamp, the passing car.

Last night as I was walking home, I thought about us. All of us. How our faces have changed in the six years we’ve grown up together. Whenever my parents see me with my friends, they always tell me “All your friends look like they’ve grown up so much! You still look the same!”. I always reply, “That’s just because you see me everyday so can’t tell that I’ve changed!”. I think that’s true. Or at least I hope it is. When we’ve seen each other practically everyday for the past 6 years, it is easy to forget that each one of us has been growing up in the process. Perhaps it is clearer to us than to anyone else since we are doing the growing up too. But still, looking at all of us, sitting at the rust brown tables, gathered around the 5th floor, the 6th floor, sometimes it is easy to forget that so many years have passed and that the 12 year old faces that we trained ourselves to imprint upon our minds are now 18.

A few weeks back when I went to pay respects to my grandfather, his father, his mother, his wife, I was struck by how the faces on every urn had grown immortal in their little cubbyholes. My great grandmother could have been my grandfather’s sister. The man next to him could have been his cousin. Even though the dates of death mark them as generations apart, it is hard to believe that when they all appear to be the same age, staring silently back at me. There are those who appear distinctly younger – like the grandmother who I’ve never met but whose DNA lives on in me. The man two boxes up and three to the left. But all of them, all of them have built their histories, their faces have grown into the lattice of history that is housed within the walls of a temple.

I wonder how long it’ll take for us to get there. We are all still so young. Perhaps less young then when we first met but young, nonetheless. Perhaps 10 years on, the last time some of us might have spoken to each other will be 10 years ago, teary goodbyes on graduation night, exhausted smiles that tell each other, across the room, we did it, we ran the race. But what we have and will always have are these 6 years that we’ve built together. 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, we’ve been through it all together. We’ve seen each other cry along the corridors, borne witnesses to each other’s pain. Every heartbreak and every celebration will not find its way to the room where all forgotten memories lay because for every instance you forget, there will be another to remember it. We affirm each moment that we’ve built together. I see that, I’ve been there.

The day we walked out from our classrooms to see a million messages written with whiteboard marker scrawled over the face of the LT wall, within which we have sat through countless scoldings together, this escapade being bait for yet another. Turns out that even whiteboard marker can be almost permanent on some surfaces and the messages will have to be scrubbed away in silence, and we will all once again face a blank wall like none of it ever happened. Notwithstanding the ridiculous, almost theatrical nature of that whole act, I think the question I ask one year down is this – Will we remember it? My answer is yes. We will, we will remember it alongside the many lectures we’ve sat through together, alongside the pain we cried out onto each others’ shoulders when we found out we had all lost a mentor, alongside the joy I know we will all feel when we complete this all.

Mufasa told Simba that the great kings of the past look down on earth from the stars. I find it hard to believe that any of us, royal or not, will find ourselves, upon the fading of our bodies, immortalised in the sky. What I do know is that many of us will eventually find our faces on ceramic urns, our bodies collapsed into ashes, our lives collapsed into bones. But there is time for that yet. Some of us will reach there faster than others but as we wake up each morning, I hope we all know that there is time for us, there is time for us to burn like the stars in the sky, unabashedly claiming the space around us as ours, knowing that even though one day our lights will one day flicker out, there will be those who recognised how beautifully we shone; individually, altogether.