The Class of 2017

It is probably affecting me more than it should. Perhaps it is partly due to my being away. I wish I could have been there when the seniors finished their capstones. I wish I can be there now, post-capstone, as they organise different things that they are passionate about. Their last opportunity to give back to this community that has shaped them, but importantly, that they have shaped. And then they are gone.

Even before their graduation was so imminent, back in semester one, I looked upon this distant milestone with a vague sense of uneasiness. It was weird to think about it then, and it is weird to think about it now. They are graduating. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. What do you mean this amazing group of people who have been with us since day one are leaving? They welcomed us, integrated us, guided us, fought for us, loved us, laughed with us, led us, showed us what Yale-NUS was supposed to be. And now – we are alone?

Of course, we are not really alone. After all, we are “full-house” now. We have the current sophomores and freshmen. And next year a new batch will arrive, full of excitement and eagerness. I don’t want to discount that. The sophomores and freshmen are wonderful. But they aren’t the seniors. It’s odd that I feel this way, since I wouldn’t say that I am close friends with many of the seniors. But I suppose it isn’t about an individual thing. I feel sad that the specific seniors I am close to are leaving, that’s for sure, but that’s a little different from what I am saying now.

There is and always will be, I think, a special bond between our two classes that is beyond individual relationships. When we first came in, there was a true spirit of pioneering (for them more than for us, of course). We were in RC4 then, trying to figure out how to do this Yale-NUS thing. The then-sophomores were the only ones there to receive us. And they did so with open arms. Having a year on us, they showed us what they learned, they brought us into the project of building this community. They sat with us in the dining hall (singular), brought us to their nascent student organisations, amazed us with their open-mic skills, warned us about QR and FOS. Together, we tried to build the community that was sold to us. And all the time we looked to them to lead the way. Even as we became sophomores and even now as juniors, we still look to them to lead the way. Who else is there to look to?

I know this sounds over-nostalgic, but the RC4 Yale-NUS will always be different in my mind than what we have today. That’s not a bad thing. Change comes, and the school evolves and grows. 300 people living in one building will be very different from 1000 people living in 3. And that’s fine. But that also means, at least for me, that the relationship between the current juniors and seniors will never be replicated. And that, I think, is why this is so sad. Because now we are to take their place. And somehow, it feels lonely.

This post is dedicated to the lovely bunch of people known as the class of 2017. Pioneers, trail-blazers, leaders, and friends. They were giants among men.

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You have made My heart beat faster

I have decided to revive this blog.

Skip over this next part if you are uninterested about the thought behind that decision.

I am not entirely sure what that is going to look like yet, but I envision it going on a different path than what it used be. I think part of the reason I stopped posting was because writing used to be very much tied up with a certain season of my life which was marked by overthinking, an unhealthy thought-life, and sadness. Writing was very much my catharsis, yet it too became shot through with a sense of the melancholy. It wasn’t the case that everything I wrote about was sad, but writing as an act still became inexplicable from a certain paradigm and season that I was in. Leaving that woods has somehow decreased the urge/need to write. 

But I have begun to recognise that writing is still a good practice, and have been meaning for a long time to get back to doing it more often. As said however, I am not too sure how this endeavour is going to go, but I shall let it take shape as it goes.

The first thing I wished to write about was something that has really struck me and changed the way I have been thinking about God. It came from a single verse:

“You have made My heart beat faster, my sister, my bride;

You have made My heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes.”

– Songs of Solomon 4:9

When I read this, I literally had to take a pause.

We know that Jesus is the bridegroom. We are the bride. Jesus is therefore here speaking to us telling us that we make His heart beat faster with a single glance of our eyes.

What even?

Take a minute to imagine that for a while. When I read it, I thought of those boy-meets-girl scenes. I see Jesus, standing from afar, gazing at us. He is in love. He’s smitten. He’s awe-struck. If He could be at a loss for words, He would. If He weren’t omniscient, He would be totally oblivious to His surroundings. He is staring at us, taking delight in the smallest of our actions – a furrow in our brow, a throw-away smile.

And then suddenly, by some chance, we turn to look at Him.

He gasps. He fumbles with the Book of Life, almost drops it. His heart beats faster.

His day is made. By a single glance.

Wow. I don’t know about you, but that blew my mind. We speak of keeping our eyes on Jesus, and how that makes us better. Makes us calm, steady, anchored. But seldom do we consider what it does to God. Because He desires our gaze too. He longs for it. He stands there waiting for us to just glance at Him. He tries all sorts of ways to make that happen, like a shy teenage boy trying to get the attention of a girl. He walks past us five times in an hour. He speaks extra loudly around us. He shows off in front of us with miracles and small acts of wonder.

And when we look at Him, He loves it. And He is affected by it. His heart flutters. How powerful is that??

His love isn’t just a theological concept. He doesn’t love us from afar on His high and mighty throne. No – His heart literally beats for us. For me, this is incredibly significant because it becomes so much easier to love a God that loves so powerfully. It becomes not so much about forcing myself to desire Him, but simply responding to His desire.

He is there. Waiting for us to look at Him. Will we turn our gaze today? Will we make His heart beat faster?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the heart of Christ will beat strangely fast,

In the gaze of His sister and bride.

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So school has started but not really. Taking short courses, half moving in, meeting half of everyone – they all give me the feel of having only one foot across the threshold. I have never taken well to shifting gears quickly, so I guess these 2 weeks are a good period for me to slowly phase back into school-life. It is exciting, but as with most exciting things, it is a little scary. What if I am not good enough? I look at myself and still so many imperfections, so many unwon battles, so much brokenness and fear and childishness.

But alas, in some strange mysterious way, this is the best place for us to be. For He is near to those who are contrite in heart. This is the best place for me to be.

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Lives Not Lived

Sometimes in a sudden moment of clarity – when everything seems to be at standstill for a split-second and the fog of life is lifted – I realise just how strange it is that I am here right now, living the life I am living. I see the faces that pass me. They are faces that I could have perhaps known. They are people I could have perhaps been. How many decisions have I made, how many chance happenings have occurred, which have brought me to where I am? A million other lines splay out around me – different lives I could have perhaps inhabited. I feel tiny and wispy. The wind blows and I am afraid of disappearing into my myriad different personas. It is staggering. It is sad. I wish then that I could live life a million times over and experience every single possibility. It is a nostalgia for lives not lived. People not loved. Places not travelled. Timelines not known. I look ahead and am too paralysed to take the next step. Every choice I take closes a million other doors. How can anyone ever hope to move?

But move we must. So I take a breath and allow the fog of life to descend. The paths fade away, and His path remains. I am here because He has led me here. And He will lead me to where I need to go.

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Sometimes I feel that in order to live our lives we – consciously or subconsciously – block out certain facts of the world we are in. It is the only way we can keep one foot in front of the next. The only way we can be happy and at peace. Deep down I think we know that ignorance is indeed bliss, and so we construct that ignorance.

Simply by virtue of writing this of course, does not mean I am innocent of this. Yet at times the veil is pierced for me. Sometimes – when I am calm and not anxious to get somewhere, when I am taking my time to walk and not checking my phone – it hits me. I happen to see someone; a person I have never met before, a stranger. But then I really take the time to look at him. I look at his posture – shoulders slightly slumped. I look at his hands – wrinkled and tired. Then I look at his eyes – darkened and lowered. And I think to myself, what could have this person experienced? What woe, what struggles? My imagination fires and fills in the gaps. A whole story is formed – filled with tears, pain, betrayal, heartbreak, loss. I feel the urge to reach out and place my hand on his shoulder.

Of course, I don’t. It’s none of my business. I have my own burdens to bear. And after all, I could be wrong.

But I know that I am not. I know I am not. So I look away.

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