Letters of Life

My 2012

A tropical Christmas on Orchard Road, 2012.

A tropical Christmas on Orchard Road, 2012.

Since sixteen, I’ve kept a diary. The current one is a cloth-bound journal with lined pages, which I turned back to read almost a year’s worth of entries, picking out what I thought were highlights of a year in a life. These highlights come with related posts, and I hope you’ll read them if you haven’t.

It’s not comprehensive, but this list does show up the randomness of how things happen, how life is mostly a series of interruptions, and tells me that these interruptions should be taken seriously and if we can, to make the most of the opportunities that arise out of the randomness. 

On with the list. 

# 1. Spending the first hours of the first day of 2012 on the banks of the Tonle Sap, which feeds into the Mekong, in Cambodia. An odorific night wind was blowing over the river onto the promenade, noisy with the fluttering of flags.

I wasn’t the only one amongst the eighteen of us who tried to avoid breathing deeply, yet taking deep breaths was part of savouring the moment, the unexpected thrill of being in a town like Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I live less than three hours away by plane, so Phnom Penh to me wasn’t exciting the way most people in the West would view it, it was merely strange spending January 1st in an unfamiliar city.

#2. In February, I was introduced to a missionary pastor who had moved four years ago from Singapore to live in Timor Leste. “What a privilege . . . ” I had thought then, to be given the opportunity to meet a man who, with his wife, had volunteered to leave home and do humanitarian work in challenging circumstances.

Eleven months later, an e-mail arrived from Timor Leste. “There’s a group of Singaporeans coming over. Are you interested?” Thus began The Adventure of My Life.

#3. March and the months that followed were a hodge-podge of creative endeavors and abstentions. I wrote a song for a short Easter production, found myself acknowledged in a friend’s newly-published fiction, also gave up Facebook and shopping for forty days over the season of Lent, learned to play a Chopin prelude with some help of course, ran a race in someone else’s shoes, and planned almost a year’s worth of birthday dinners. Or so it seemed.

#4. By the time June rolled around, fatigue was setting in, the feeling of having done too much with not much to show for my exertions. Revived by an unexpected reunion with classmates from my alma mater, I rediscovered the comforting presence of women whom I’d known as girls. [Read about it on These Golden Hours (II)]

#5. I went fitness crazy for a while, doing high-intensity workouts (or at least thinking about them) in between running a few days a week. Partnered a neighbour on weekly runs so she could prep for her first race at the end of the year.

#6. A surprise birthday party my friends threw for me in August elevated the day to a status shared by none of the other days in the calendar. [A Party Like No Other; Or Why Surprise Parties Last Forever]

#7. Then one of my October posts got Freshly Pressed! La Dolce Vita was submitted to a weekly writing challenge to do with similes and metaphors. This post was lying around in draft mode: I was trying out different points of view within the same post, imitating an author I admired, describing an afternoon of good conversation.

Getting Freshly Pressed was surreal. I received more subscribers in one weekend than I ever did in a year. There was self-imposed pressure to keep up the writing, to keep posting interesting stuff. But it just wasn’t possible.

#8. I can’t believe how beautiful December has turned out. The last month of 2012 has eclipsed the others in terms of meaningful activity, personal growth, and the love and affection of old and good friends.

First, the weather turned cool and cloudy, and the monsoon rains came. I love the monsoon rains, with its thunder and lightning, the fierceness of it all. This rain is steeped in childhood memory, and if what comes to mind is a sentimentalised perspective of the past, nothing wrong with that.

There was my visit to Timor Leste, being involved behind-the-scenes in church Christmas events which is always fun, afternoons of Christmas shopping, and now, it’s down to one last thing: hosting what will be the biggest party of 2012 later this evening.

There are some things I’m disappointed with, like how I didn’t achieve some goals I set for myself in 2012, and how I’ve allowed myself to become distracted beyond belief. But I’m glad there’s time to persevere and discipline myself and get somewhere in 2013. There are some big things that I’m leaving out here. Someday, maybe, they will find their way here.

Out of habit, I tend to view the new year with more trepidation than anticipation. It has to do with “the broken bits of glass” (a line from Love for a Child by the talented Jason Mraz) left over from adolescence perhaps. But by grace, I don’t face the new year alone anymore, and it makes all the difference in the world.

Tell me about your thoughts of facing the coming year. 


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