So it’s nearly the end of the year as I write this. I’m still in London, I’m still cold, it’s not even 4.30pm and it’s already pitch dark outside. So I’m staying indoors and thinking about the new year.
Soon, it'll be 2010. A brand new year. And a brand new decade. Which is as good a time as any to assess my life so far. I do this every year. I look back. Take stock of what I did right. What I did wrong. Get depressed. Get drunk. Wake up the next day with a hangover and swear I’ll never do anything that stupid again.
I remember there was a time when I’d get on a bus, look around me, and smugly realize that I was the youngest person on board. The Future stretched ahead of me. And it was filled with Plans. Big Plans.
One year, I came home from school and told my mother that I wanted to be an astro-physicist. She looked up from the mahjong table, her hands not missing a beat as she clicked and clacked the tiles into neat stacks. “I bet you can’t even spell the word!” she said.
My sister Michelle says it’s a miracle that none of us turned into homicidal maniacs with a penchant for home-made explosive devices.
Looking back, I see my mother’s point though. Between the ages of seven and 17, I changed career plans the way Madonna changes her hair colour. Who could keep up?
When I was 8, I wanted to be a doctor and discover the cure for cancer. Two years later, I wanted to be a paranormal investigator. And when I was 13, I watched an illegal DVD of ‘Speed’ and told my father that I was going to be a bomb-disposal expert. My mother overhead the comment and said, “But you’re colour-blind! Guess what’s going to happen when you snip the wrong coloured wire? Kaboom!” Her fingers, dazzling with diamonds, danced in the air.
The day I graduated from Law School, my mother was practically catatonic with sheer happiness. “Finally!” she said to me in the car on the way home from the graduation ceremony. And that’s all she said. But I knew she was proud as hell because the children of her mahjong kaki told me they were sick of their mothers coming home and berating them for being such useless layabouts when May-Ling Hahn’s son had become a lawyer.
The day I announced I was leaving private practice to become a freelance writer, my mother didn’t attend her afternoon mahjong session. All her friends were convinced she had died and called the police.
These days, when I get on the bus, I realize I am no longer the youngest person on the bus. Sometimes, kids call me “uncle” and I suddenly realize that the big Future that once stretched ahead of me is now in my Past.
But the bigger question is this: What have I done with my life? If I got run over by a bus today, would my last thought be: “I’ve had a great time, I have no regrets! Oooh, what’s that bright shining light?” Or would it be: “Are you kidding me? I skipped dessert and now I’m dying? Oooh, what’s that bright shining light?”
I think I’ve done well, especially this past year. I’ve written for a whole bunch of magazines. My editors seem to like me. Well, they’re returning my calls – and, in Singapore, lemme tell ya, that’s a big deal. Sure, I’ve not made a whole tonne of money, especially compared to my legal days, but I make enough to pay the rent, go on holiday and still have some left over to stash away for a rainy day.
My flatmate Saffy thinks I’m over-analysing things. “Listen,” she said the other day, her fabulous bosom straining over a super tight tee-shirt that declared ‘My eyes aren’t here!’
“This whole taking stock in the new year’s is too depressing. Life’s too short. You gotta live it, grab it by the balls and hang on! That’s what I do!” she said with immense satisfaction.
“Yes, and you wonder why your dates never call the next day!” Amanda sighed.
Saffy giggled and waved her napkin at Amanda. “No, I’m serious! You can’t control your destiny. Every day is Life’s way of surprising you. What you do with that surprise is up to you.”
Amanda later said that just when you thought you were totally done under-estimating Saffy, she turned around and surprised you with depth.
Me, I’ve decided to call my mother more often. And to stop taking the bus.
Happy Christmas, everyone.