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We Think Being Grown Up Means Having Life Figured Out. What If We Never Do?

We Think Being Grown Up Means Having Life Figured Out. What If We Never Do?

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Images: Zachary Tang.

This is the fifth in a series of stories told to us by Singaporeans from varying walks of life. The process was simple: meet someone on the street and spend time with them talking about life. Singaporeans often think other Singaporeans are boring, but everyone has a story to tell. Sometimes, you just have to ask.

Zenice, 24. Along the waterfront in front of Singapore Sports Hub. 6:47 PM

I’m lost. I haven’t figured life out yet. That’s why I was sitting here staring blankly out into space before you approached me. I’m actually meeting a friend for dinner around the area later but I just wanted to spend some time alone thinking about things and re-evaluating my life.

No! It’s okay! You’re welcome to join me. Having someone to listen and talk to is nice. I’m a people person and spending quality time with friends is what makes me the happiest, in fact. But it does feel like it’s become harder and harder to come by. 

I’m a final-year student at NTU doing a degree in public policy. The past semester has been pretty rough, riddled with anxiety, fear and all of that but there aren’t many people around that I can talk to. No one’s around. I took a gap year last year school so all my friends have graduated and are busy with their own stuff. And when we do meet, sometimes it’s just hard for them to empathise I guess. 

Because of that, I started isolating myself a little so I didn’t have to like, tell people how I’m feeling. I don’t know, I just think when friends ask you stuff like ‘how are you?’, they’re not expecting you to say you broke down every day for the past week—that kinda heavy stuff. Maybe they just wanna know how things are on the surface? I don’t have any “follow-up” either. Like if you ask me how I am every week, it’ll always be the same answer. ‘Stressed’, ‘tired’, I don’t have anything new to say.

I guess It’s just that feeling of not wanting to make your own burdens someone else’s problem? Everyone has their own shit to deal with. And the thing is no one will truly understand what you’re feeling  anyway so in my head I’m like ‘okay, never mind!’ 

Hmm, yeah, I think I’ve changed a lot in recent years. I feel like I’m less positive and optimistic. My happiest memory? Let me think. My 21st birthday party. That was really good. It was a nice rooftop celebration and I was surrounded by family and a lot of friends. It was just very cosy. Other than that, I can’t really think of anything. Quite sad right! Okay, actually, I think feeling driven would make the happiest. 

Not to sound like a typical strawberry millennial or whatever but I think right now I’m just struggling with … stability? With uni ending soon, I’m at that stage where you either look for a job that offers stability or you “break the mould” and just do what you wanna do. They’re two competing forces and I don’t know what to do. It’s quite tiring to live in Singapore sometimes. Societal expectations can be a bitch!

You know, my parents were very strongly against me taking a gap year. I actually wanted to do it in the time between poly and uni but my parents threatened to kick me out of the house! I don’t know why but they didn’t think that I’d get an education after I came back. The funny thing is they didn’t realise it was probably necessary for my education.

Why? Because I felt like that life was moving too fast! There was no room to breathe. I mean, in Singapore it’s like okay, you go to school, you go to uni, you graduate, you work, then you retire and die. The thought of it kinda scared me and I always felt like I was riding the tide of the education system. I wasn’t ready to succumb to that just yet. I needed to put everything on pause for a while so I took time off. But even then it wasn’t a proper break.

The only way I could convince my parents to let me take a year off was to do internships. So I did two. People always have this idea that it’s brave to take a year off and that it’s about finding yourself and figuring out what you wanna do with your life. I guess it’s true but it sort of creates a lot of expectations, you know what I mean? ‘Did you decide what you want to do?’, ‘Have you secured employment?’, ‘Did you this, did you that?’ Singaporeans always expect you to have some form of revelation or epiphany after the gap year but sometimes, a break is just a break! 

[Sighs]

Finding meaning in life is tough. I know my problems are damn small in the grander scheme of things and that I should be grateful but … it’s still difficult. There’s so much I haven’t figured out yet.

I know what I believe in though. Career-wise, I just wanna make a difference; I wanna bring light to issues that aren’t well-known in Singapore. Issues like homelessness, for example. It’s a very real and “normal” thing to some people but as a privileged person, you might not even be aware of the problem; it’s easy to miss. I read Teo You Yenn’s book on inequality and it really inspired me so I decided to make my final-year project about the housing aspirations of lower-income families. Being able to bring light to stuff like that, and having people go ‘wow, I didn’t know that such things existed,’ then doing something about it—that is very meaningful to me. 

But yeah, like I said, the drive just isn’t there. And I’m not sure why. Like I can tell you about my dreams and all but I guess when it actually comes down to it, they’re still only thoughts in my head. I suppose I think a lot more about society than actually doing anything about it. 

Maybe it’s because I don’t know where to start? I don’t think I’m noble enough yet to say, sacrifice every weekend to help, that kinda thing. I’m not trying to make excuses but aside from personal commitments, I’m trying to work on myself too. 

Everything is pretty confusing at the moment and there are so many times where I just feel … lost. But I’m definitely working on it. Existential crisis!!!

I’m so sorry, I know it’s a lot to hear from a random stranger! But I do feel a lot better after talking to you. It’s very comforting to know that what I’m feeling is extremely normal.

Everything will be okay, right? 

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Author

Justin Vanderstraaten Staff writer