2012 has been nothing short of spectacular for me.
I was in Switzerland on exchange in the 2nd half of 2012 and had the time of my life. Was away from home for 6 months and did lots of traveling within Europe before term began and during term time – London, Barcelona, Ibiza (twice), Santorini, Ios, Berlin (twice), Budapest, Prague (twice), Amsterdam, Paris (twice), Dusseldorf, Zurich, Munich, Brussels, Ghent, Florence and Milan (twice too hahah). Made many many new friends and learned so much from all of them. Just had an amazing, amazing time. Took countless planes, buses, trains etc and now have acquired many nightmare travel stories to regal people with. My “la familia” is everywhere around the world, and its so heartwarming knowing that I have a home, friendship and love welcoming me in many countries and on continents far far away. Like someone told me – the reunions will make the separations worthwhile – and while my heart has broken a million times over saying bye to my St Gallen family, I know we will meet again someday somewhere. The world is tiny and that gives me hope.
Personally I have grown so much. Independence, new wisdom, the capacity (and bravery) to meet new people, make conversation and grow close to complete strangers, to open my heart to new friendships and new possibilities, and even simple things like being able to sleep on a stone cold and hard airport bench for 6 hours alone and starving, with zero Euros on myself to buy a burger with. Would not trade these experiences for any amount of money in the world, or Hermes, or Loubs. Really. Anyone who would give up personal growth and discovery for material goods would be missing out on so much – so never do that. I’m glad I didn’t. I found myself the most happy lugging around all my clothes in a tiny suitcase, sleeping without a care in the world on the beach chairs with a beer nestled in the sand next to me, and then waking up with horrible tan lines and sunburnt skin. Meeting new, travel-hardened people at the hostels and listening to their travel stories, inspirations, motivations and philosophies. “Why be scared of the dark? When it’s dark, you can hide.” or “Remember you are always the main lead in your life.” or “You hate in others what you hate and try to hide in yourself.” even the funniest things like “WE LIKE DIRT. DIRT IS COOL.” … So many gems that left Leeza and I pondering and reflecting on how we’ve led our lives thus far.
Singaporeans are a pretty homogeneous bunch of people… We all follow the same paths in lives. We have the same philosophies (if any), the same thoughts; to work hard, to succeed, to get full marks, to get promoted, to win. The single-minded drive to succeed. But probe further, ask us why we want these things so badly, what we are motivated by, what our pleasures in life are – and either you get frivolous answers, or you get accusatory looks (“why are you even asking these pointless questions!?”)
But life is so much more than that. Leeza and I have listened to countless soliloquies from people everywhere in Europe, from friends whose thoughts have left us dumbfounded at their perceptiveness, and dumbfounded at our unthinking ignorance. We never make soliloquies. We almost never have anything worthwhile or inspiring to say. Its almost like we’ve lived our lives without thinking about anything at all, beyond the presentation on Friday, the exam next month, our GPA by graduation. We used to berate others for wanting to live their lives the way they wanted to – to take a gap year (this is so unacceptable in Singapore) off to do nothing but travel, live life on the rough and cheap, to sleep on the beaches and be there when the sun rises and sets (“what an utter waste of time, get your ass back to school!!!”) but WHY?! Why do we frown upon people wanting to live their lives? It’s nice to make partner by 35, its nice to be lauded for your academic successes and your achievements, but I never want to be swallowed whole by my ambitions and to be rendered blind to the joys inherent in life.
Our Greek friend had a tattoo inscribed on his chest: Momento vivere. Remember to live. And I will hold that phrase deep within my heart, I will embrace my beautiful memories and my myriad joys experienced on this journey, and try my best to do exactly that every single second of my life. Like Oliv said, 2012 was a journey of self-discovery for me. I realize I love traveling – not in the typical sense of booking a luxurious vacation, staying in beautiful hotels and eating good food at fancy Michelin-starred restaurants, NO – I want the grit, I want the dirt, I want to be on the ground meeting new people from around the world and being awestruck by new perspectives. I also realize how big my heart is – how easy it is for me to love, to create and maintain new friendships, to open my mind, to accept, to hug, to commiserate with anyone, to cry, to comfort, to feel affection, to trust. I never want this to change in myself. So thank you 2012.