Hello! It has been 3 months since I left you but I didn’t give you a formal goodbye letter in our 6 years long affair. How should I start? It is difficult like all break-ups. My thoughts are jumbled in my brain. My emotions are a mixture of many things that are hard to express in words. Hence, this is me, writing to you 3 months after. Apologies for my incoherent introduction to my letter but here goes…
I first met you when I was 14 years old during my brief vacation with my family. I saw you. I developed a fleeting infatuation with your infectious charm. I had this childish daydream that we have a future together. But I have forgotten about it as I grew up like most childish dreams. But serendipitously, I found myself face-to-face with you, 6 years ago, a naive girl, fresh out of medical residency, trying out to be a big brave girl in a foreign land. You are beautiful in a modern, intimidating kind-of-way, almost too mature and too serious. That charm I thought I saw during my brief vacation when I was 14 was camouflaged by my sudden attack of panic being clueless in a place that I may not be able to adjust to. Everything was too new for me. The smell and flavour of the foods; the high-rise buildings that are called homes; the incomprehensible dialogues exchanged around me that sounds a bit like English but I couldn’t seem to comprehend; the computer screens in front of me that I used when seeing patients instead of my trusty pen and paper, the non-smiley faces when I approach strangers and the fast-paced living like time was running out. I always welcome solitude in my life so it never bothered me, being alone in a different country. I just felt like I have bitten off something more than I can chew. We were too different for each other. You were too sophisticated for a simple gal like me from a laid-back simple city. In our 3-4 months together, I felt that it is just not going to work out. You are you and I am me. I tried my best to love you. For 8 months to a little over less than a year, I have to admit I cried buckets of tears, bled a bit, sweat too and my heart got broken a couple of times from fear that I am not good enough, disappointment in myself for not being strong enough, from regret and many other feelings I wanted to forget. But I have to say in those 8 months, I saw a glimpse of you that I was slowly liking: the convenience of transportation, dipping the piece of chicken on a sweet brown thick soy sauce, the innovative automated many things I see everywhere, the easy way of paying for things I need and certain transactions; the fast internet connectivity. But at 8 months, I wasn’t still sure of you or I guess I wasn’t still sure of me being with you.
But slowly, I saw it. Your scowling face gradually turned into a smile. A smile that inch wider and wider as the day past. I got it! It takes time for you to warm up to new people. You assess, probe and observe with a very logical and precise manner if a person is genuine and could be trusted. Then you let them in. I guess, I passed the test. I remember this observation very well. I would always buy my Kopi Peng (Iced Coffee) in this hawker stall with this middle-aged auntie who would look at you, black-faced and grunting when taking beverage orders. I endured this gloomy exchange every morning just to get my morning pick-me-up beverage. But as days goes by, auntie would slowly smile at me as I hand my Singaporean coins. When she saw me with my growing pregnant belly as she takes my regular order of Kopi Peng and Chicken Pao, she would tease me that my baby would look like a Kosong (Black Coffee) and the baby’s cheeks would be as big as a pao. (FYI: my 2nd son did have pao cheeks but he has fair skin & not kosong). She would lovingly call me, Mei Mei. One time I drop by to buy coffee during my off day with my pao baby in my carrier. The 2 aunties in the coffee shop wanted to carry him and took selfies with him. I had more stories like this that made me feel that this is a place that I can call my second home. I have an uncle neighbour would greet me when I pass by his favorite bench below our old HDB building and he would bring me cut-up fruits from the hawker stall to quickly leave in my consultation room in the clinic. I love the long walks to places which provided me the exercise I needed without realising I am exercising. I love that I am spoiled by the convenience: the grocery delivery, automated and online bank payments; the availability of everything I need and I never thought I wanted; the free parks & exercise areas in parks, many more. I was loving the food so much, I can never stop praising it. I love that I can understand your language now and I even know how to speak a little bit of it lah. I love how eclectic the city is. You see different races communing peacefully together. It is amazing and wonderful to watch. It is both urban & nature (even if it is man-made nature). The city has wonderful features like the Gardens By The Bay, Marina Bay Sands, Sentosa Island, The Merlion Statue that has been flocked by tourists to experience & view and here I am, living in the city.
Yes, I fell in love with you. It was a serious relationship, not that teenybopper kind-of love. In that course of 6 years, it was not perfect like all relationships, there were still things that we don’t agree upon like taxes, the stress & expectation to be perfect, your “kiasu-ness“, you bringing up whenever we fight that I am a foreigner & very different from you, your irritation to my too cheerful personality & carefree ways and my lack of rigidity & propensity for magical thinking that is devoid of logic & structure. But in spite it all, we stuck it out. We did tahan each other as much as we can. We had a bond, a unique bond. We needed each other. I need you and you need me even if I know deep in my heart, I am replaceable. We can’t deny the years we had together. It felt right, we know it. I can say we look good together, don’t we? We got pictures to prove it, lots of pictures. We have beautiful memories together, memories that will last a long long time.
at Botanic Gardens
But like most love stories, forever is not written in the stars. I have felt it already a few years before I left, that nagging feeling that this is not working out, that feeling that I do love you but I am not in love with you anymore. Maybe because I have changed. Or also maybe because we both wanted different things. We are moving apart. I felt sad when I had that realisation but I wasn’t that naïve little girl 6 years ago anymore. I became resilient and brave because you taught me how to. You are still you: sophisticated, logical, stubborn, unchanging in your ways. But I can’t be like you. I am seeking for more laid-back lifestyle, a slow-paced kind of life. Blame Marie Condo for this change of heart but I want to live in less and reject the excess. And you have to admit you have the tendency for living in the excess because it is all just there, all available with one swipe of the card. I prefer to find peace of mind and avoid the hustle & bustle of urban living. I want to stop punishing myself to be perfect because I am not. I hope you understand what I am articulating here. It is not you but me. I must move on.
I love you but we have to do this. We cannot insist to be together when we both know deep in our hearts this will only delay the inevitable: us breaking up eventually. But thank you for everything. Xie xie! Terih Mah Kasih! (Sorry I cannot say thank you in Tamil.) You are amazing. You are special. You were my first, you know and first love never dies, they say. So in spite all our occasionally quarrels and misunderstandings, you will always have a place in my heart. I have to say goodbye now. Please don’t forget me. I will definitely miss you but I have to let you go. Goodbye, Singapura!
Little Miss Honey