The poignant and insightful farewell letter that was supposedly written by Gabriel García Márquez reminded me of my old friend Kiere Robertson, who I considered as a great friend and my early career mentor. The “letter” has now been proven to be written by somebody else – but nevertheless, the content certainly reminded me of the things that matter in life. It was Kiere who suggested that I should read One Hundred Years of Solitude – quite a ‘heavy’ book to read but I persisted nevertheless. My friendship with Kiere was forged through IRC chatrooms from late-1990’s until mid-2000’s. We talked about a lot of things, and he witnessed my career and geographic moves – from Jakarta to Singapore, and from Singapore to Adelaide. At one stage, because he was worried about my welfare during the 1998 riot in Jakarta, he tried to facilitate a job for me in the US. I wrote more about Kiere in my earlier blog post: No Day But Today.
I still miss chatting to Kiere and being a techie like me, I wonder what he would think about Facebook, iPhone and the newer methods of communication. I wish I still had him to chat about work and also be his sounding board when he’s frustrated with work. Remembering him, I looked through my old files and I read my old chat logs with him. I have lost a lot of the chat logs due to me moving from one country to the next in the early 2000’s. With the ones that I still have, I was struck at how silly, carefree, and naïve I sounded when I chatted to Kiere. I probably still have those qualities, but with the wisdom of time, it’s a strange experience to read what I wrote nearly fifteen years ago. Am I the same person as that guy?
Time brings expectations of how we should behave and think. Our age is a byproduct of time – as much as I think I have remained the same, my body continues to remind me that I am on a steady march to Winter. I am no longer a twenty-something yuppie and as much as I am pleased that people think that I am still in my mid-30’s, I know that I am far older than that. My youthful look and demeanours are perhaps also a benefit from hanging with younger people – either at church or at work. I continue to hang around with people who may be old enough to be my children, had I married young. I am comfortable in silly jokes and street lingos that would be weird spoken by ‘people of my age’. If I compare myself with my peers from Highschool, many of them fit the image that I have of people in their 40’s: having children in Elementary School, looking weathered and yet fulfilled with life, and thinking and acting “their age”.
Being aware of this issue also makes me aware of the behaviours of people around me. Some of my friends are also already in their 30’s, and hanging around with younger students also make them act and behave as twenty-somethings. They seem not to be concerned about forward planning – of saving to buy a house, of getting married and building a family, or just basically being adults. Some are still pretty happy playing computer games late at night or content collecting cute and cuddly toys, just like a 15 or an 18-year-old would do. Again, who am I to judge, really – it’s hard to act our age when we live in a bubble and being surrounded by people younger than we are.
I also experienced a similar bubble when I lived in Singapore – hanging around fellow expatriates who would be comfortable in having champagne brunches and night-outs during the weekends. Very few were married, so getting married or building a family was not something that I thought about. I didn’t think about building my roots for the future – getting a house, building a family, etcetra, etcetera. I can still remember a conversation that I had on a subsequent visit to Singapore after I settled down in Adelaide. I told a friend of mine that I was getting married. She looked at me quizzically and asked, “Why?”. Not quite the reaction that I was expecting. 🙂
Time can be so cruel in pushing us forward. We can’t look back, reminisce and revisit the past. There’s not even a room for us to dwell and be in that moment. Yes, we may have time to relax for an hour or two – but oftentimes, something snaps us back to reality. To behaving our own age. So for now, we have to conform with time and with the life stage that we are put in, whether voluntarily or kicking and screaming. We can only truly live in the moment when we reach eternity, when we don’t have time to constrain us any longer.