millbrook sunset

The memories came flooding back like tidal waves crashing into rocks. And they felt good. Letters from kindergarten, elementary, and high school friends; photographs of my younger days with family members; old school uniforms, baby clothes that mom lovingly kept, bears, beads, cross-stitched patterns, piano books from the time I started playing to now, and even melted candy were found in these treasure boxes. These were items that spelt out my past, and they made me the person I am today. Even though it took me eight long hours to rummage through all the boxes, it was a special, momentous day.

It has been a tough two months. Adjusting back to Singapore is proving to be tougher than I imagined it to be. Over the past year, since making my decision to come back, I had spent a significant amount of time preparing myself for the return. Many days were spent balling my eyes out as my imagination stretched to the size of the Atlantic Ocean. In the practice of yoga, we are taught to remain in the present moment, without thinking of the past nor future. And hence, the struggle to remain in the present moment was my yoga practice for the past year, and it continues to be. Before, I was fighting the inclination to propel the imaginative self into the future, disregarding the present moment when I was still able to cycle, bake, cook, and practice yoga with my lovely teacher and friends in Toronto. Often times, even in therapy, I had to be beckoned back into the room because my spirit seemed to have drifted to another realm. Right now, I am battling with myself to stay present, and leave the past seven years in my memory banks without wishing that I could teleport myself into the past. I am stricken by my current circumstances because Singapore is, and has always been, a tough place for me.

I miss freedom. The freedom of speech; the freedom to love; the freedom to bake and cook; the freedom to be me. Wait. Can’t I be me in at any place and at any time? I am struggling. One of the fears I had upon coming back was the ability to find my true voice without allowing the circumstances, society or family to silence me. Being authentic and true to myself are two extremely important qualities that I am fighting to maintain a firm grip on. Since arriving back, I have seen and witness oppression, judgement, criticism, and hatred. Singapore has stimulated my senses to such high degrees that my vision is clouded with dark, ominous clouds with no clear sign of when the sunshine might fall through. I feel caged in, stuck, and completely jaded. I feel frustrated at my current circumstance, and I’m starting to hate many things around me. All these are horrible feelings, and they leave me helpless and weak. This is sad.

On an intellectual level, I am not stupid. Canada is not without her own set of baggage, and I was very exposed to them during my seven year stay on her land. Oppression lives in every corner of our universe, because many of us derive theories and misconceptions of others to alleviate our personal fears. As human beings, we are quick to judge and criticize because we are not conditioned to live outside of the status quo. All these fears well up in us, creating feelings of hatred, forcing us to unleash it on ourselves or others with brute anger, devoid of compassion nor empathy. Because we live in fast-paced societies, we are forced to adhere to many beliefs and practices that are thought to bring a nation and world towards progress and prosperity for ourselves, and our children. But do we really attain happiness? Do we really know what happiness tastes and feels like?

Singapore brings up so many unpleasant feelings in me because I never found my voice while growing up. I felt stifled and small, with no knowledge of boundaries and choices. I grew up as an unhappy child, filled with huge bouts of anger with no knowledge of releasing them without hurting myself or others. I was suicidal and craved the liberation one might feel once I step both feet off the ledge. My move to Canada allowed me to taste freedom — without family or friends from my old days. It gave me a chance to start anew and forced me to be open to new experiences which I gladly took in. I was allowed to relieve myself from past hurt and unhappiness, and actually ignore the unpleasant feelings that were stored deep within me. Being in Canada was like being on Prozac, because I escaped the darkness, and sought only for the light. And I tasted blissfulness — for those few years in Vancouver at least. My time in Toronto was completely different, when I started realizing that one can never stay in the light for too long without eventually being thrown into the darkness.

There’s so much fear that boils inside as I battle to live with my unpleasant emotions right now. Rummaging through those treasure boxes made me realize that I did understand happiness in the past, but I chose to embrace the darkness because I did not know how to strike a balance between the two. I had experienced love from family and friends during my growing years, and I am completely grateful to see everything with a different set of eyes now. Being back in Singapore is the very place that I need to be at right now, if I choose to grow as a person, and in my yoga practice. It is the struggle of being in the deep depths of discomfort that would allow me to understand compassion, empathy and love for thyself and others. It is also about wrestling to find balance between the darkness and lightness that would help me see the world with a different set of lenses — that the world does not live in the extreme states because in order for humanity and the universe to thrive, we need balance. Balance in ourselves, in the society, in the world, and in the universe. Singapore really is not that bad after all.