it’s a place i’d like to be

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I used to make notes on my phone about stuff I want to blog about, and when I went through them just a moment ago, there was only one item on that list last updated on 23rd March 2014: “hashtagging is an art”. Don’t know. Don’t ask. (Although, when I was trying to come up with a hashtag for the Sunway Canon Photography Workshops, I stumbled upon this site which is interesting and also funny.)

I think I first truly realised humans are not immortal when I was 8 and I came home from church crying because I’d learned from Sunday school that Jesus resurrected from the dead and why would I be so upset if I didn’t think dead humans were supposed to, well, stay dead right? Since then, the idea of death has always been absolutely terrifying to me, but of course, it is a universal fear. Where do we go from there? Is it a painful process? But most importantly, why can’t I just stay with my family and friends forever? Why do I have to leave and why do they have to leave?

With the recognisation of the permanence of being absent from a world we once knew and lived in, there arises a a fervent need for many to, colloquially coined, “leave a mark” in this world, to be immortalized in things that last forever, because we don’t. Literature, music, film, politics, literally everything that will last for the next century or so. But all of that doesn’t matter either if no one remembers them; essentially we want to leave a mark in people’s memories, and hopefully we will still be talked about by these people for the great things we contributed to this wretched world. Like many things that we attribute to human nature (greed, self-preservation), wanting to be remembered for our accolades is one of them. Of course, I can’t know for sure without actually finding out if other people share the same opinion as I do, but so far, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t want to be remembered for the great things they did.

Last week, in a moment of adrenaline rush, I asked my housemates if they wanted to go to the topmost floor of SMR – level 22 – with me to check out if there really was a garden up there or if it was just a rumour. But when I stepped out of the lift, and looked down the balcony while a strong gale blew at us, I immediately regretted everything. I couldn’t even move beyond the lift area without starting to get traces of hyperventilation. In contrast, my housemates seemed like they were on a vacation, and thankfully, with their help, I got across to the next lift area and immediately pressed the down button regardless of whether my housemates were going to follow or not. Despite the assured stability of the building, it felt like the ground itself was convoluted. In that moment of severe leverage, I felt trapped. And fragile. And so, so small. Everything was so precarious, like standing on the sharp pointy end of a pinnacle, about to fall off at any moment if I made a wrong footing, or sneezed a little too forcefully.

How dare I, as a single entity among a seven-billion-figure population, have the audacity to think that whatever I do in life matters to the world? It is, indeed, such a selfish belief.

There are new achievements being rhapsodized about everyday, new records being broken, new discoveries being made; and we hear them widespread through the media. Such big and impactful miracles! The world is a-changing! Events that will be recorded in history textbooks and studied as a compulsory national syllabus by tired sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds in 10 years time. These are the miracles that everyone remembers, including you and I.

But there are also smaller but no less important miracles at work everyday in our daily lives. Parents whom you can call at 2AM to talk about your fears and have them eradicated, friends whom you go on spontaneous road trips with, teachers who don’t technically owe you anything yet do so much for you even though you are just a student among the masses, and even strangers who hold open doors for you or the friendly security guard at the guardhouse who always smiles at you whenever you pass by. No journalist reports these in The Guardian, nor do news anchors on BBC, but these are the immediate things you think of when your life flashes before your eyes. Not the first line in Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, nor even Usain Bolt running 100m in 9.58 seconds. You think about the last time you had coffee (or tea because you don’t drink coffee) with your friends at a dimly lit cafe as it was pouring rain outside, and you think about taking care of your pet puppy with your parents two years ago when it had parvovirus for a week.

And if you are thought about, my friend, you have already left a larger mark than you realise. Because the worst thing isn’t being hated, it’s being forgotten by the people you love.

Published by

Michelle Teoh

26-year-old cynical Asian, book enthusiast and purveyor of fine sarcasm.

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