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04 January 2012 @ 12:15 am
"If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him. If the providential order of God for you is a hard time of difficulty, go through with it, but never choose the scene of your martyrdom."
- Oswald Chambers

Joseph W was back in the country for a short while over the new year, shuffling in between London and Shanghai for work. So we met to talk.

I've written about him before - Joseph W, my old jc friend, who gave up his citizenship and took the two years while I was in NS to get a head start in an Ivy League university. Even though he struggled all through jc with teachers telling him he'd flunk and fail, he stuck to his guns - economics - and the friends who followed him overseas to carve out a career with an international bank. And so, based in London and jet-setting so often that he doesn't even pay for his flights anymore, he has made it, literally. I joke with him once in a while that he is living the lifestyle all young Singaporeans crave: travelling wantonly (for work), making cash (in sterling pounds) and being successful enough to only return to the island for business.

To say that I admire him is an understatement. But tonight, we were sitting across each other at Adam road, talking about life. It's our favourite topic, considering that in jc we always talked nonsense or monetary policy. We talk over char kway teow and bee hoon goreng puteh about our futures, which amazes me, because I realise that as we grow older, our conversations get more and more sober. 

We pick our options. Prior to getting my current job, it's always been assumed that I would work for our government. It was always assumed that I would somehow fall into the trajectory that 95% of the people I know follow. Get a job, settle down, get a family. Right now, I tell him, it's not as clear as that. And my ambitions are leading me outside of this island. He approves. His ambitions, not to judge, have always been too distant for any of our local binocular visions: New York or Frankfurt, he says, but preferbly New York. Because working in New York always looks impressive on a resume.

We reach the last mouthfuls of our food. My cup of teh is on the brink of emptiness. In between his sips from his cup, there's a restlessness in his voice that reminds me he's pressed for time. He needs to show a British friend the Night Safari. But our final exchange is weird, even for our very frank standards. We talk about marriage.

Are guys my age unevenly obsessed with settling down? Yes. It's just something ingrained in our culture, our education - we're taught to look forward to applying for that HDB flat. I'm in the middle of the sociological argument when he asks if I have a girlfriend. I give him my stare. And when he talks about our fellow jc classmates (the point of reference) who have settled down, we conclude: what the hell does anyone know about life at 25 to make such a commitment? But there's a reason he asks. Because he isn't in a relationship anymore, and that girl - who was a stabilizing force, a teacher at Sunday School, someone who seemed to finally see him as the person he was - has decided to become weary of his never being in one place for longer than three months. It's the last thing I would've wanted to hear, and the first thing that comes to mind when I try to understand his restlessness.

And like always, when we part we always make plans to talk to our other jc classmates (the unforgettable six of us who boycotted prom because we were pissed that they were overcharging us). There's promises to meet up, promises that we always keep, because talking to each other about life in smelly place like Adam road is as probably as close to settling down for him, and as close as flexing my own ambition. Like two people on opposite banks of a river, meeting at a whirlpool at the water's edge, trying not to drown in the deep current of this crazy, crazy life.

Thanks Joseph for reminding me life is not always about the big things.