Twenty-fifteen was a year of many first’s.
This goes without saying for most if not all of us, but 2015 holds a particular resonance for me. It was a year of first’s laced with joy and threaded with pain–some reminisced with a soft smile and a wistful sigh, others remembered with downcast eyes and knitted brow.
These were my most memorable first’s of 2015.
I began writing for YMI.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. It was a secret wish I stashed away at the back of my mind, one which I thought would remain just that, at least for the foreseeable future.
Twenty-fifteen was the year when I began to feel an urge to do something more, above and beyond myself and my musings. And God, in His perfect timing and omniscience, opened the door for me to write for YMI, a Christian website for youths.
I thank God for the new experience: for the new connections and friends made, for the patience and grace of the YMI team, and of course, for the opportunity to write a handful of articles for them.
I’m still learning how to strike a balance between telling a story without sounding too preachy–to be substantive enough without being heavy, yet interesting enough without being superficial. It’s an ongoing process, and I’m excited to see where God will lead me in this.
I went on a holiday with friends.
I’ve traveled alone to the United States twice and lived in Hong Kong for a solid five months, but going on an actual, proper holiday with just friends? Never.
In August I visited Bangkok with two of my best friends, Vic and Fern. Yes, Bangkok, the city that Every Singaporean Teenager has been to. When I was 16, I read my classmate’s blog with much envy, in which she bragged about her post-exam celebratory trip to Bangkok with her friends.
I was incredulous. How could her parents allow her to fly to a foreign (and potentially dangerous) country, when mine wouldn’t even let me have a sleepover?! Ah, the woes of a teenager.
Seven years later, I take an early morning flight to the Land of Smiles, where we spend five days visiting floating markets, taking wefies at tourist-saturated heritage sites, shopping excessively, and consuming coconuts like water.
I thank God for the likes of Fern and Vic, who know me well enough never to trust me with directions, for letting me stop abruptly every few feet to snap pictures, and who’re gracious enough to accept me with all my strange particularities (such my extreme territoriality over my bed–sorry, you two).
I took a gap semester.
Whenever people ask me why I decided to take a gap semester, I tell them that it’s a long story. Because it is. It’s a long story involving unexpected news, desperate appeals, sleepless nights, stress-induced tears, fervent prayers, layers of approvals, waiting and worrying, and an ultimate assuring peace that all things work together for the good of those who are called to his purpose. So yes, it is a long story.
As my friends began their first semester as final year students, I resumed an internship back at MediaCorp: first as a transcriber during the General Election, then as a broadcast reporter for Channel NewsAsia, and, for the first time, as a digital reporter.
There were moments when I felt pangs of regret, doubt and fear, especially when it hit me that I wouldn’t be in my graduation gown with my friends, and that I’d be heading back to school as they began their forays into their careers. There were many times I felt like a blindfolded prisoner walking on a plank that would abruptly end–blindfolded neither by God nor my circumstances per se, but by my own fears and my tendency to worry, worry, worry, even as Jesus led and comforted and whispered to me over and over, do not worry, let your heart not be troubled, believe in me.
Yet that internship was one of the most enriching and enjoyable internships I’ve had so far, especially after joining the digital desk for the first time. I got to cover a lot more stories on the ground, both in terms of breadth and depth.
From witnessing the minute of silence at the French embassy after the Paris attacks, to interviewing Myanmar voters casting ballots in an historic election, to covering a manic shopping episode, I can say with certainty that those 13 weeks were definitely never boring.
Oh, and I also did my first ever digital piece-to-camera for a story on pet therapy in NUS. It was nerve-wracking being in front of the camera, but I got to stroke a furry feline at the same time, so that kind of helped!
I became the editor-in-chief of my campus publication.
I had already passed on my position of lifestyle editor at The Ridge Magazine to one of my writers, and was preparing to retire in comfort, when I was asked: “Do you want to be the next chief editor?”
I hesitated, and said yes.
Honestly, I haven’t made up my mind whether that was the best or worst decision I made in 2015.
Because I didn’t know that I was saying yes to bouts of uncertainty and exhaustion, periods of stress and loneliness, and stretches of sleepless nights. I didn’t know I was saying yes to chasing hectic deadlines and meeting student union leaders, to answering a constant stream of emails and phone calls and WhatsApp messages, to using phrases like ‘follow up’ and ‘moving forward’ and ‘you are strongly encouraged’. I didn’t know I was saying yes to this heavy responsibility that, many a times, felt too much for my shoulders to bear, one which felt more like a suffocation rather than the golden opportunity that had first flashed in my mind when I said yes.
Yet I was also saying yes to the delight of holding my first printed issue. To seeing our collective labour bearing fruit–like when a reader emailed us with his compliments or when our articles became viral. I was saying yes to learning what it means to be a leader and motivating people, to stepping out of my comfort zone, to meeting people whose paths I’d never have crossed with otherwise.
By the grace of God and with the help of countless individuals–chief of whom is my deputy Fern–the past four months of being an editor-in-chief has been an extremely humbling experience. Because if there’s anything I’ve learnt, it’s this:
I cannot do this on my own.
It was (and is) only with the support and enthusiasm of my fellow members, the encouragement of lecturers, ex-colleagues, friends and family–including the foresight and advice of my business-savvy brother–that we were able to push out our first issue, revamp our website and social media platforms, publish online regularly, and (hopefully) build a sense of community within our ranks.
I don’t know how I’ll cope once school starts tomorrow. After taking a four month break from studying, I’ll finally be entering the first semester of my honours year, with our second (and last!) issue currently in the works.
Yet I take comfort in the fact that God will surely carry me through the next 13 weeks of school, just as He has the past gap semester, and the past three years of university.
I attended SWAT Camp.
SWAT Camp was a six-day, five-night camp involving around 180 students from the NUS and NTU Christian Fellowship, studying the Word all together.
I was a little nervous initially, because it’d been such a long time since I’d attended Varsity Christian Fellowship (three semesters ago), and an even longer time since I’d attended a school camp (four years ago). I was worried that I’d feel left out, the way camps can sometimes do to people who are introverted and alone.
But it was nothing like that. Attending the camp was one of my greatest thanksgivings for 2015. For the first time, I encountered God in a genuine and vulnerable way that I hadn’t in a very long time, and made friends with fellow brothers and sisters bonded by the blood of Jesus.
It turned out to be six days and five nights of being soaked in the presence of God and His Word, and enjoying authentic and meaningful fellowship with His family.
There were many other first’s as well: cycling more than 88 kilometres across Singapore with my dad during a bike rally, being a bridesmaid for a close sister (who is now pregnant!), catching up with my primary six form teacher, voting during the General Election, holidaying in Hong Kong with my parents, spending my birthday with family for the first time in four years, and so on.
In writing all of this, I’m conscious of how it seems as if I caused them to be–as if initiated them or made them happen to be how they turned out to be. But no, above the I in all this was YHWH, I Am Who I Am, the Name above all names, who led me, step by step, to where I am today.
In these five first’s there are many words left unspoken. Words that describe moments of quiet solitude and peace, of deep loneliness and anguish, of broken-heartedness and angry tears, of uncontrollable mirth and unreserved joy, of unrecognised and unremembered emotions that swirl to a blank slate of grey in overdue retrospection.
We always say that the years are passing by quicker than we know. But if we were to pause from the daily busyness of life, we’d come to realise that it’s only because we allow that to happen. It isn’t time that’s moving faster, but us, as we perpetually strain our eyes far forward into the future, without casting so much as a glance back.
Twenty-fifteen has been a year of many first’s. And I thank God for every moment of it.