The guilt of being single

I live in two alternate universes. One is a chaotic developing country where nothing makes sense; one is a First World island where everything is clean and seems to work. I work and play in the former but come home to the latter every few months.

Home is where the heart is but it is also where the guilt lies. Each time I come home, I’m confronted with how weird I am. Most friends are married and parents by now, while I’m still happily gallivanting away (and sometimes having cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner).

But I haven’t always been so out-of-the-mould. Growing up, I did all the correct things. Aced the major exams, got into the top schools and landed a promising job. In short, while I may not have been a flaming success, I wasn’t an embarrassment to the family. Then at the age of 27, I upped and went to the land of slums to do voluntary work. Eight years later, I’m still in the same country but doing something different, which allows me to have the odd Starbucks coffee now and then.

Yet each time I come home to the land of normal people, I’m confronted with an acute sense of failure. As the elder child in the family and the oldest grandchild on my mother’s side, I have failed both my parents and my grandparents.

Because I’m single, my mum has to listen helplessly as her friends boast about their children’s lavish weddings and adorable grandkids. It’s not that my mum needs to show off, but I hate it that she’s feeling like a pariah because of me.

Or when my grandma was dangerously ill earlier this year, everyone was trying to give her something to look forward to so that she would hang on and pull through. The best by far, I thought, was when my cousin told her, “I’m going to get married next year. Do you want to be there? If so, you cannot give up.” I couldn’t think of anything to promise and bribe my grandma to live.

My grandparents can’t understand why I choose to remain overseas and berate me for not coming home to look after my parents. Because I’m not married, my mum still worries for me although I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself. Because I don’t have kids, my parents are probably deprived of a fun distraction in their retirement.

And with each passing year as the odds of me getting a husband (not looking for one) and kids (don’t want any) fade into oblivion, these feelings of guilt get suffocatingly heavy. But the fact is, even if I could turn back the clock, I’d still choose to be where I am today. I am truly happy, but there’s a price to pay for my selfish choices.

So on this last day of 2012, as I prepare to return to the other alternate universe and head into the new year, I get to lay this burden of guilt down for a bit. It can wait for when I next come home again.

The mortality of my K2 skates

There are a few things I’d always do whenever I come back to Singapore on holiday. Stuff my face, meet friends, and skate. I’d taken my K2 soft boots with me to Bangkok in my early years there but the badly maintained tracks at the park and its unreasonable restrictions on wheels of all forms (allowed only between 10am to 3pm and after 9pm) put paid to any rosy notions of skating there. So I’d eventually brought my skates back to Singapore and resigned myself to using them three times a year.

A few days ago, I was dismayed to find that the strap of the buckle had snapped without me knowing. Which meant I couldn’t skate until I got it fixed. Or if it were too expensive, I might have to say goodbye to them.

I bought these skates when I was 20, an age when life was full of possibilities and we felt as immortal as can be. Fifteen years later, the skates are looking shabby and I am getting hoary. Don’t believe it when people tell you that things go downhill after 30. The truth is, you turn 35, and it’s a nosedive from there.

Your mortality confronts you at every turn. Say goodbye to your Size 2 skirts. You’ll never be able to fit into them ever. Not even after a bout of gastric flu. Your system gets invaded by aliens whose names such as acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhoids become uncomfortably familiar Your body starts falling apart. Injuries take longer to heal, scabs take longer to form. I, who came in a “proud” second in a primary school teeth competition, am now having problems with my pearlies, dreading the approaching day that I will need crowns.

While I may not be able to halt the decline of my uncooperative body, I could repair my skates. For $30, my aged skates now have brand new buckles and a second lease of life. For $30, I got to skate again and, in that hour today, savoured the immortality of youth once again.

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Starry starry night – road trip day 1

It is all quiet except for some busybody insects chirping away. The stars spread across the night sky, and I can see the moon from where I am. Outside, the temperature’s dropping quite quickly as is the norm on mountain tops. It all sounds really romantic… Except that I’m writing from my car. Which I’m sleeping in tonight.

At least I’m comfortably huddled in my fleece-lined trousers, fleece jacket, down jacket and sleeping bag. I learnt my lesson from last year when I had to sleep in the car at Doi Angkhang and I was so miserably cold.

So Khao Khor is a really popular mountain in Petchabun, which explains why all the 10 resorts we contacted were all booked out tonight. Maybe it’s also got to do with us trying to book only two days ago. We thought we’d just drive here and try our luck. If we can’t find anything, we can just sleep in the car, which I prefer to sleeping in a tent anyway.

Khao Khor is the first stop in my 10-day road trip to the North of Thailand. This is my first extended road trip and I’m terribly excited. We’ve done about 500km today and my car, which will be turning 11 years old next week, was a star. Let’s see how it handles the even higher mountains tomorrow. LOL.

There’s a saying at Khao Khor that just staying one night at Khao Khor can extend one’s life by a year. Let’s see if I feel younger tomorrow morning after a night in the car.