I’m Twenty-One But…

A chapter ends and another begins. I turn 21 today.

Many people celebrate their 21 with a birthday party. They invite their closest of friends and family to celebrate that special day with them.

For me?

Nah. I’ve never enjoyed parties nor will I ever think of hosting one. Apart from the financial burden it might have on me just for a day of smiles, being an introvert, I never liked being around too many people at any one time. I hate to divide my attention across many people and would rather spend long hours with just a few.

Maybe you might disagree but I prefer a day of quiet and reflection.

To tell you the truth, I never liked the commemoration of my birthday, it reminds me too much of growing older. Each new digit that adds on to my age comes with added burden and responsibilities. Not only that, it forces me to face the fact that my life will never be the same again; parents will get older, unfortunate events will happen, people will move out of your life and so on. Reality just kicks you in the balls annually, you feel me?

In the past, when I envisioned myself as a 21-year-old man, I’ve always thought of myself as a self-sustaining, successful person with a life that is geared, set and ready to go. Looking at it now, not so much. Maybe I did achieve some minor successes, e.g. getting into a university. However, a plan for life? Not really.

But maybe, I have to look back to truly appreciate how far I have come.

Here’s a rough timeline of my life thus far:

Kandang Kerbau Hospital (KKH) → 13th December 1995

Jurong Town Primary School → 2001 – 2002

Lakeside Primary School → 2002 – 2007

Yuan Ching Secondary School → 2008 – 2011

Catholic Junior College → 2012 – 2013

Worked at Yuan Ching Secondary School as a Relief Teacher → February 2014 – May 2014

Basic Military Training (BMT) at Pulau Tekong in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) →
May 2014 – July 2014

Singapore Civil Defence Force → July 2014 – March 2016

National University of Singapore → August 2016 – Whenever

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

If you have been following me for a while, you would know that memories matter to me a lot. I document almost anything interesting in my life, taking videos and photographs of things that might not ever happen again.

As of recently, I’ve been trying my best to live life. To cherish every moment. Even more so as I turn 21 because I know that anything that happens from here on has a conscious and direct effect on me e.g. a death of a loved one.

After living for about a quarter of your expected lifespan, you start to realise that there really isn’t much time. Therefore, I think that with the time we have left, we should not waste a single moment of it.

So, what’s next for me?

I’m not really sure.

I just have to live every moment and see where that takes me.




Living Long is Boring

Everywhere you look there will always be an advertisement featuring a product that claims would make you look younger, fresher, healthier. There is also a rising trend in people getting botox on their faces or going under the knife just to make themselves look youthful. However, this trend of ‘youthification’ of society is not only happening in the cosmetics sector but also in the research community.

I’m taking a module in university about the ‘Mysteries of Ageing’. It is more of a seminar rather. We talk and discuss the factors that affect ageing and the ways scientists could tackle it. However, throughout the lessons, I came to question, why would anyone want to live longer and how much longer?

Let us take this scenario for example. Imagine one day, you are told that you are blessed with the gift of living till the age of 200. Assuming that your health remains the same as of now, what would you do with all that time? Keep in mind that life still goes on as per normal. You would still need to pay the bills and probably work.

Would you party your life away? Travel around the world? Read all the books in the world? Gather as much knowledge about the cultures and languages all over the world? How would you spend all of that time?

When will it start to get boring and repetitive?

Personally, I would not want to live till 200 or even till 150 because it quickly gets boring. It is not possible for one to travel throughout those 200 years or party or read books. It will get mundane and repetitive over time.

Sometimes less is more.

By living a shorter life, one is able to cherish the moments better. Each moment that happened in your life is a larger percentage when you live until the age of 80 compared to living until the age of 200. Each moment would be so much more meaningful.

Furthermore, I believe that this world is not able to entertain and pleasure us forever. It is a world with limits and I guess, once I’m done with my time here, it would be best to move on instead of living longer than I have to.

Authors of Our Lives

After reading the book, ‘Being Mortal’ by Atul Gawande, I have been thinking about the ageing process and the effects that come with it. I have been thinking about the swollen joints, the constant aching back, the weakened strength and even the weakened bowels. However, I have especially been thinking about what if I become senile and lose control of my life?

I am afraid, afraid of losing myself. I am afraid of my brain and mind betraying me, dying and diminishing, surrendering to dementia as it slowly burns away what it means to be me, my character and my memories erased.

The body that is left behind by senility, living and breathing will not be me, or any individual for that matter. The body left behind would be just a fragment of who he or she was before. The memories of who he was are gone, the consciousness of who he will be, will be non-existent and the self-awareness of his current state no more.

I am afraid to be in that state. Existing without knowing that I exist. It is as if I am trapped, trapped inside a body that still wants to live even though its essence of being conscious is gone as if a walking zombie.

I meant no offence to anyone who has family members suffering from such a cruel disease. I too had a cousin that experienced not dementia but a form of brain degradation. I saw him change from an intellectual young man into somebody who is unaware of his own existence. It affected his consciousness and self-awareness, and I understood how much damage it brought to him and his immediate family.

He had lost his ability to be the author of his life, unable to make decisions for himself, thus, his everyday needs are met with the help of his mother and a maid. He had lost all forms of independence and every single day, it seems as if he is just existing.

I would never want to ever fall into such a state. A state whereby I lose all sense of self-awareness and consciousness, a state where all my decisions are made for me and a state where I am existing just for the sake of existing. Maybe I should warn my family, to let me go on the first chance they have, to let me die when my mind begins to slip away…

Being the author of our own lives — being independent — is something all of us cherish. It is, after all, the essence of what makes us, us and one day, it might be taken away either slowly or suddenly. Therefore, maybe we should have a plan, a decision made before we start to lose our rationality and later, ourselves.

One by One, They All Die

The atmosphere was filled with grief and sadness. When you listened closely, you could hear people holding back tears while others were quietly crying into a handkerchief. You stood there, head down as if in prayer as a sign of respect to the deceased. You recognised this atmosphere all too well, it is after all the 10th funeral that you have attended in the past year. The deceased was a close friend of yours, one that you had spent countless hours, night after night, talking and laughing about life and the past. You had known the deceased for almost 40 years now and to find out that he is finally gone had broken your heart… well… should have…

You seemed to have gotten used to it. Used to the deaths of your loved ones and dying in general. You know that you should feel heartbroken and destroyed but… you just don’t seem to be. Maybe, you finally realised the futility of it all. People die and it is only a matter of time. Furthermore, you thought that it might be better to die in these golden years.

You had lived your life. You had achieved all the dreams that you wanted, each period of your life represented by a ticking off of the bucket list. You had seen the world, met countless types of people from various backgrounds and ethnicities. You have heard stories and told them too, sharing and exchanging knowledge. You have visited the edges of the world and done some incredibly crazy things but most importantly, the biggest goal of all, you were married to a wonderful person and had grown old together.

Slowly, the body was lowered into the ground, prayers were quietly said beneath breaths and soil was carefully placed onto the body, bit by bit filling up the grave. A final good-bye was said and the crowd of dark and grieving colours dispersed. You knelt down silent, one hand on the grave, listening to the cool breeze against the grass and taking in the flowery scent emanating from the air.

“This is it, is it?”, you spoke, talking to no one.

You closed your eyes trying to stop the tears that were threatening to roll down. You breathed in deep, forcing back the tears but… to no avail. Your mind wandered about your own mortality and how one day you would find yourself on your deathbed, clinging to life, how one day you will be 6 feet under too. You cried, tears streaming down your cheeks as you thought about how your memories, experiences and the life that you had lived will all disappear. You thought about the amount of time you had left… Your days are numbered.

However, after all of that, you began to realise that you are grateful. You are grateful for being life to enjoy this world. You are grateful to being able to meet everyone that you had learned to love. You are grateful for being able to live such a long and beautiful life…

After wiping the tears away, you stood up and walked away. As you walked away, you wondered about when will you come back to the cemetery again and in what state, in a coffin or in a crowd? Whatever it is, your mind is clear and you accept whatever comes your way, it would be selfish to want to live forever wouldn’t it?