If I had the time the time to go around asking people what their summers were like I totally would have done that. But of course, I didn’t have the time, nor was I going to meet someone just to ask how their summer was. People have lives to live.
Instead I imagine alternative summers and make mental notes of them. And here they are. (One of them is actually me)
“Summer was intense. It came and went pretty fast because I was always on the move, always doing something. It was somewhere in the middle of May when I was flown off on an internship in Mumbai, India. It had to do with telemarketing, and I thought I would be fine with it when I signed up. But that was back then, in my foolish past. I remember packing the night before and frantically texting my friends, practically panicking, worried that I wouldn’t be okay out there. There are a lot of bad things that could happen to one when they are overseas, and I didn’t want to be one of those foolish enough to try and get hurt. But of course, here I am now, safe and back home. None of what I imagined happened. I must admit, India was exactly how I thought it would be, except there was no Holi festival at that time (Laughs). But no, seriously, I went to work everyday feeling more and more confident, though I knew I had a lot to catch up on. The streets were dirty compared to back home, but everything functioned spectacularly. The locals are way more hardworking than I ever could be. Granted, they don’t have the same reliable resources that I did back home, but something about them spoke of limitless desire. I still can’t place it till today, and since I’m already back maybe I never will. Also, remember to eat only cooked food in India. Not that it’s spectacularly unhygienic, but it’s quite a leap for our immune systems to go about eating fresh vegetables there. I suffered the consequences, but I’m okay now.”
“There was a one month period during my summer that some may say was sort of wasted. I don’t know, it doesn’t look like I did much, but it felt like little steps towards growth for me. During the whole month I would wake up every day at about eight, cook breakfast for myself (usually scrambled eggs on toast with cherry tomatoes), then read a few chapters of a book in the mid morning. Then I would visit the local supermarket, buy some groceries, then cook pasta for lunch (always pasta, nothing else). Afternoon will see me either writing something personal, reading more, or going for a long run. What I’d do without those long runs. At night I may meet my friends who have gotten off work, or spend time with my family. It seems like a total waste of time but in those months I learnt something important; to give time to myself and slow down to an almost halt. I felt a lightness that I’d never known before, and it was great. Also, I mastered 6 different pasta recipes (Carbonara, Aglio Olio, Bolognaise, seafood Marinara, prawn basil cream and Vongole) and got myself back to consistently running again. There’s no other way I would have spent that portion of summer; cooking, reading, running.”
“Summer was terrible. I spent my three months in an internship that I didn’t like at all, with people I am certain I will never see again in my life. Worst of all, I mixed up the submissions and got allocated an internship in Woodlands when I lived in Bukit Timah. I wake up at seven every day just to get to work by eight thirty, squeezing onto that sardine can of a bus. I flounder about pretending to get myself a hot beverage at the pantry before work finally reaches me. It’s not that I’m paid a whole lot too, only about nine-hundred a month. My friends are earning much more, and tell me that this isn’t worth it. But exposure is important, everyone says. I mean, to be fair, I still don’t know what I really want, but I all I know is that this doesn’t feel like it. But yet I have to do it, because who knows? Maybe life is going to be like this for the next thirty years, just me cooped up in an office job that I don’t like, with a group of bitchy people that I can hardly talk to about anything other than the weather and traffic. It sucks, but this may very well be the rest of our lives. Passion can only bring you so far, and summer has shown me that.”
“I spent my summer largely travelling. I saved up quite a lot from a bunch of odd jobs I did over the semester and so I had some to spare. My parents even offered to sponsor some cash for the trips, but I politely declined. Anyhow, I travelled with a few friends at first, and then myself. We did a little round trip first around Europe, starting in Germany then hooking east to Austria, Czech republic, Hungary, Poland, France then London. Most memorable was the Auschwitz concentration camp memorial, where some of the most horrific events in human history occurred. In World War Two Jews were treated like cattle, herded efficiently into large gas chambers where they were tricked into thinking were large showers. The entire ground looked like an army camp, sanitised and inconspicuous. It showed me that evil can exist in any form, and called for tremendous reflection. I was humbled by how small I was in the grand scheme of things, just one life that was lucky enough to have an opportunity to thrive. We walked around for hours, none of us uttering a word to each other.
What’s good about travelling with friends is that you end up knowing almost everything about them, even things you haven’t before. I have known this bunch since secondary school but somehow one night we had a discussion and we talked about the things we wanted to achieve by thirty and most of the answers came as pretty unexpected. It makes me wonder if we know anything important about each other at all. Travelling (and maybe summer) grants us this opportunity for reunion with the people we choose to be around. The rug is swept from under our feet and only we remain, just people floating in some weird space.“
Writing the above made me feel strangely self-centred, because like it or not, my attempts at fiction somehow or rather always revolve around me. It’s as if I can’t escape from my own humanness and truly step into someone else’s shoes. I wear my identity like a second skin. To be fair, a lot of us try. We say that we can imagine how it feels, or how someone feels but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We can only approach understanding, but never ever understand anything in its fullest. To fully understand is to attain perfection, and if this summer has taught me anything, it is that no one’s narrative is perfect. We just find our own peace with how we choose to manage our time and our relationships, and live it out.
School starts in eight days, and the show must go on.