Home > Reflection > A Year Is A Long Time

A Year Is A Long Time

In every instance an adult has had occasion to enquire about my age and level this year, there was, invariably, a reference to the exams I would be taking at the end of the year. Such small talk quite often contained a half-formed expression of concern, and sometimes, even preceded some sort of attempted commiseration about the stress of exams, student life or life in Singapore in general. It’s just culture, and I’m sure every J2 (I usually skip explaining Year 6) student has experienced this to some degree; I am also sure of the fact that the experience of not bothering with trying to explain how year-end exams cast next to no shadow on the rest of the year is not unique. A year is a long time when you’re only eighteen, too long a time to spend looking forward to (or dreading) just one event; but I imagine that when one is forty or fifty it becomes much easier to suppose that one of eighteen may do so.

But while I’m thinking, ‘Only eighteen years,’ I’m also thinking, ‘Eighteen years already,’ and that’s a sobering thought. I am making a gross rounding error with the time here, although Someone actually turned eighteen yesterday. Errors notwithstanding, I suppose the main question, about what kind of year 2008 was, remains.

Several weeks this year did seem to go by in a haze, perhaps of sleepiness. There were essays and reports to write, and presentations to prepare for, and other reasons for late- or all-nighters. A couple of weeks went by seemingly out of focus. (Perhaps in a haze of wilful distraction?) I guess that was just the feeling I got after some extended period of exertion. I suppose the exertion of trying to remember or invent (they aren’t really all that different, interestingly enough) times of Significance may be contributing to a general haze. I’m reminded of a lyric from that wonderful Belle & Sebastian song:

‘If I could do just one near-perfect thing I’d be happy.
They’d write it on my grave or when they scatter my ashes.’ – From ‘If She Wants Me’

But it is becoming difficult to continue being interested in my year and myself as a list of things done. Perhaps it’s because we’ve already had to do it a few times.

I’m tempted to look at the year as more stagnant than the last, but I suspect it’s because of how the last three months of the year have seemed relatively relaxed and leisurely, perhaps one-dimensionally relaxed and leisurely. By October, it seemed like everyone and I thought there was only one thing left to do and focus on. Certainly it was an uncomfortable feeling. It wasn’t that studying was a waste of time, but having to do only one thing and knowing that my parents and other people would excuse all sorts of things in the light of the coming exam was discomfiting.

I felt less ill-at-ease about studying for IOC and rushing out all those Music IAs. Spending quality time with the texts and being able to talk about them with similarly engaged people was one of those rare experiences I’ll treasure. I also felt very fortunate for the experience of recording compositions, both my friends’ and mine, with other musically talented friends. Indeed, the feeling that I was extremely ‘fortunate’ (that was the word in my mind) was one that I’ve felt acutely on several occasions this year. Perhaps the knowledge that I’d soon be leaving school life behind contributed to my being increasingly aware of the wonderful friends and teachers and acquaintances and experiences I’ve had.

I’ve already written about a few of the experiences I’ve had in band before (Japan, SIBF), but I didn’t write about my feelings of frustration and disappointment during the Japan trip. I suppose it’s because there’s not really all that much to say about those feelings, other than that I had them, but on one of the nights in Fukui I was almost overcome. I remember sitting with my iPod on a soft chair in the almost empty common area in listening to Wilco, when I was totally swept away by this line in Either Way: ‘Maybe the sun will shine today.’ It was the best ‘maybe’ I’ve ever heard, because I could not believe that the day had gone anything other than terribly, and at the same time I was trying desperately to believe that things would be better the next day, and the next performance. I knew I could not afford not to, because, unfortunately, I think I radiate depression when I feel it. But what I did feel was freedom from thinking about the probability that things would be better or worse, because the possibility that it could be other than bad was enough at that point in time, and somehow that became extremely precious. It was somehow enough. I remember thinking of the word ‘equanimity’, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. I think it was because Alfian Sa’at wrote a ghazal about equanimity. I think that experience made the SIBF (Singapore International Band Festival) performances all the more meaningful, because we actually played well. I actually felt proud, and genuinely happy with the performance, and it was a feeling to savour, even though the final result was still crushingly disappointing. I guess these were the big band moments, but as for what it all adds up to, it’s difficult to articulate.

As for what the year adds up to, I don’t know. I suppose this was the year of many things that I’ll try extra hard not to forget, in addition to the hazy ones. 

But I don’t know. I’m defeated. There’s too much to say that I’m still figuring out, and I’ve run out of time.

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Categories: Reflection
  1. 5 January 2009 at 1:24 am

    Jono posted an awesome video of semi-finals night: http://vimeo.com/2706483

    The funny thing is, I was outside the hall with Victor watching the instruments. Any regret I may have felt about not being in the hall was mitigated somewhat by how apprehensive I was about the result, and how I felt quite drained after the rehearsals and the performance. Still, if you’ve seen the video, you can Hear how awesome it was when I found out the result from someone on the line (on the phone) in the hall.

  1. 2 January 2009 at 11:45 pm

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