My drive to work, no matter how long or short it takes, has a soundtrack. This soundtrack evolves as I do, and serves as a marker of what huge life event I was going through at the time.
Many of you know that I spent 3 months in Singapore back when I was just 19. I took on an unpaid internship that had nothing to do with my major with a group of people I had never met before and bit the bullet big time.
There were a lot more efficient ways to spend my summer, to be honest. I could have taken an extra class, tried to get a more relevant job, make some money, plan my retirement....the list goes on. But there was a nagging feeling that I could not get rid of; I had to go to Singapore. The country was waving its flag at me frantically, almost pestering me to visit. And so I assuaged that nagging feeling, and I left for the tiny island.
That summer was magical. The friends, food, travel, work, nights in, nights out, everything. I had the time of of my life, whether I was alone or with my new friends. I feel so alive by the lack of routine and excitement of everything to explore. Every moment felt electric. Needless to say, once my 3 months were up, I left with the heaviest heart. I cried on my way to the airport, in the airport, and on the plane. I left Singapore with a strong feeling that I'll find a way back....just without an idea of when.
5 years later, I returned. It honestly felt like returning home. All those beautiful memories from that summer were still there, sitting in the hawker centers, MRT stations, restaurants that I used to frequent. A familiar neighborhood would bring back a surge of nostalgia, in the best way possible.
While my return had created new memories to now treasure, one particular conversation will remain firmly embedded. It is common for Singaporean families to employ a housekeeper from neighboring countries. The one I met was incredibly sweet and seemed to remember the smallest things about me (like how I'll demolish plates of guava and dragon fruit) after a few days of meeting me.
On my last day, she told me that she'll miss me because I was a distraction from missing her husband and children, who are still back in Indonesia. She said her entire day is spent either working or missing her family, which splintered my heart. As someone who has lived her life in the pursuit of adventure instead of sacrifice, I felt selfish.
But this is what traveling is for--it's to ground you, keep you humble, and even make you understand what is missing from your current life.
Although I was only there for two weeks, I leave Singapore with an expanded collection of curated moments, and also that strong feeling that I'll be back yet again.
Remember what it was like to check your final report card online? There's the mounting dread that the curve may not have worked out in your favor, and everyone is going to ask you about what grade you got and you'd never get a job because you got one B+?
I think I still have nightmares about those moments. There was so much pressure to achieve the highest grade, when in the end, the effects of a good grade were minute. A high grade in O-Chem means nothing when you walk into your first job or first big presentation.
However, when it comes to internal goals, I've loosened the belt. I set lofty personal goals to push myself out of my comfort zone. I may not achieve everything, but at least I tried.
So, let's see how I did on my 2017 goals:
Here's my 2017 Report Card:
· Go on my first mountaineering adventure (for those of you who don't know, that means crossing glaciers with ice axes and shit)—Yes!
· Try surfing— Yes!
· Explore Iceland— Yes!
· Don't dye my hair ever again.....— Yes!
· Go canyoneering (rappelling through canyons) in Utah—This never happened :( But it will in 2018!
· Snowboard like mad (that means more than 2x in a year for me)— Yes!
· Backpack/hike through the Narrows, Grand Canyon, Colorado and Glacier National Park—Partially...never got to make it out to Utah or Arizona
· Climb Half Dome and Mt Whitney again—Yes!
· Take my family on a surprise trip—Sadly no. I've tried but there are a lot of internal forces from allowing me to do so. To be honest, I don't even know how probable this goal is.
· Weave altruism into my travels—No, but I am planning this
So that leaves me with a score of 6.5/10. Definitely worse than a B, but I'll take it.