Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer

Summer vacation is such a very strange thing.

Having grown up in Singapore, you never really have summer vacations. You have very busy June holidays. (June holidays that are crammed with “holiday activities”, CCA camps, the occasional church camp and holiday homework- a hallmark of a Singaporean student’s life.). Then you have December holidays. Somehow December always seems more relaxed than June.

January to March. Get back to school and study. March holidays don’t really exist. Most people go back to school anyway. April to June. You get small pockets of time to relax in June. School, CCA, church and everything else eat up most of the time. July to September. Back to the same school routine. October to December. Prepare for exams. Take exams. Rest in December.

Ten cycles of the same routine for the JC kids. A slightly different cycle for the poly and ITE grads.

And then the guys go to NS. NS, where you change for better or worse.

And the girls go to university or to work.

Of course I went through NS. Then completed my first year in university.

My first summer vacation. It seems strange to think of it that way.

It turns out that things did not quite turn out the way I’d envisioned them to be. At the beginning of my vacation, I made up a list. Three columns. One was labeled “necessary”. The other two were labeled “considering” and “optional”. Under “necessary” were things such as “find a job-urgent”, “write letter to CM kids”, “exercise, run, swim, conditioning”, “do NS Book Project”, “have more sleepovers” and so on. Under “considering” were things like… well okay, I can’t remember what I put there. Under “optional” were items such as “learn Malay” (which I actually attempted to do toward the start of my vacation!) or “learn sign language”.

I guess I’ve completed or am halfway through most of what I put under “necessary”.

It’s interesting to me how I started this summer vacation. I had a week or so after my exams. And then, after a few short phone calls, I got a job in a bank. Looking back, I see that it was really God’s providence. So one week after school had ended, I began working hard in my first commercial job. I spent three weeks trying to experience how it was like in the banking industry. I stayed back to work OT on purpose. Partly because of the money. Partly due to the fact that I wanted to find how it feels to work OT. And partly to see how the employees feel so late into the night.

I stopped that after the first three weeks. I knew what I needed to know. It got me thinking about what I’m going to do after I graduate years from now. Will I have work-life balance? Will God fit in there? Will I have time for kids and ministry?

Yup, my walk with God plummeted after those three weeks. But at least I learnt something.
The next few weeks were rather standard. Work, sleepover and past midnight meetings for the NS Book Project. Late night suppers on some days and just going home on others. World cup sleepovers. Just having fun and pushing myself late into the night. A really ironic way to relax.

It struck me as weird how my last few days on the job were. I talked a bit more with people who
had appreciated my presence. I drew up a chart for where I kept all the items because I knew people would be confused immediately after I left. I had a few more lunches with Enos- something which I really miss.

On my last day, I gave out Oreos to people as a sort of farewell gift. Never mind that many people didn’t really care. After all, I was just a contract staff helping out for three months of their lives and probably gone for the rest of their lives.

I got two farewell gifts. One was a box of chocolates from a perm staff who came in after me. I helped her a lot with the transition into the work place. I taught her the ropes on her part of the job, because she was tasked with taking over some of my functions before I left. She wasn’t from my team, but at least she appreciated me.

The other was a cheese/carrot cake from a manager on another team. I often helped her to retrieve files from my side for her analysis. It’s weird that people often take their own staff’s contribution as a given. I mean, I never felt appreciated on my own side despite doing my best for them. But I felt so appreciated by members of another team.

My farewell from my own side consisted of a colleague running up to me fifteen minutes before we were to knock off, and asking me to urgently find a file before I left, and me wanting to say a proper goodbye to my boss but realizing that he was too busy talking on the phone to offer me anything more than a hurried goodbye wave.

So I left my workplace. A rather happy person. I spent one day meditating and packing for Crusade camp.

And then I went for the camp itself.

It was a joy to be at the camp. I mean, I didn’t get much time to talk to people and all. But it was really so awesome to just be there.

But looking back I guess I was a bit distant from everyone. Was still dealing with issues and all. Being part of the crowd has never really been one of my greatest strengths. I’m always different somehow. Some days it gets real bad. (But my comfort lies in the fact that I know God is working on this part of my life. One of my many imperfections. I mean, over the years I've found that apart from hanging out with some very close people, I actually struggle to have fun. I muse that it could be a mix of me setting high standards for myself plus my training in army days plus the feeling that I just want to make sure I achieve something. Well, all those and perhaps a million other things- which leads me to my next thought- that I think too much at times.)

And then came a week of rest at home. With the NS Book Project still going on.

Then last week, which included a very blessed day of cycling at East Coast and a couple of meet-ups.

And there’s this week of course. I’m ready for school in the technical sense.

Oh, what a summer of rest and recuperation. Of reflection and quiet growth. It wasn’t as exciting as all my fellow schoolmates who went on Overseas CIP, Gen 12 and tours. But I would like to think that I came out a better person after this season. A lot of my burdens over the last two terms at school have been laid down before my Lord Jesus. A lot of thinking has been done.

And a lot has changed.

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