story | Rachel Hau, Staff Writer
photo | Rachel Hau
I remember the scratchy unbreathing blue dri-fit t-shirts, a little glaringly bright, but capable of surviving mud and river water, sweat and rain. Seeing the blue and orange tents at Pasir Ris Park. Making our way to dimly-lit park toilets in the dark of night. Sleeping in said tents, with a damp towel draped over me for a blanket. Waking up to the sound of a man and woman raising their voices, the sound of a beer can falling on hard ground. Standing on a beach, watching the ships pass by, taking a panoramic shot that is surely still somewhere in my phone.
I remember awkward lunch tags in Residential College 4 — I can’t seem to recall the contents of our conversations, but I do recall the internal squirming, the fact I was drinking Milo that was strangely sweet, strangely comforting. I remember when everyone used to wear so-called elephant pants to lectures, and how the doors would slam shut loudly, so half the professors in the College of Alice and Peter Tan Auditorium would turn around to see the source of the offending noise if you had entered late. I remember too, sitting on the ground with the familiar low hum of a mini-fridge, and with blue fairy lights illuminating the room, a friend clutching a soft toy with dangly legs.
I remember the nervousness that accompanied speaking in Lit Hum seminars, the mad dash down the stairs before every 2:30 class, and the occasional smell of food wafting out from the Shiok Shack next door. I remember reading a poem about a BDSM take on Ramayana, and I remember wondering if every college professor I encountered was going to have me delve into something along the lines of the erotics of poetics in order to challenge me intellectually and broaden my horizons. I wondered too, if college was going to result in some crisis of faith, some dramatic metamorphosis. If faith has been a flickering flame for me, though, so has doubt – a slow burn, building in intensity, often sinking in to the point of becoming very much a part of my line of thought and questioning.
I also remember my first wine and cheese event, metres away from that same classroom, in a little room designated for the Writers’ Centre. I remember my own uncertainty mixed with gurgling excitement in my chest, as I held for the first time in my life, a booklet in my hands that contained my printed prose I had written.
The other night I caught one of those glowing orange sunsets. The kind that fills a suite with warm orange light, that makes even the shadows seem luminous. I have begun to reconnect with life outside of college, and every time I return to my room in college, leaving feels a little harder. Slowly, but surely, the awareness—that I will soon not return to this space which has held tearful memories, laughter, loneliness in the midst of bubbling chatter—grows.
Someone once told me that the specifics of the moment might be lost, but how it made you feel would never be forgotten. I remember how surreal it felt, and the sense of relief, when I got my acceptance to Yale-NUS College, the exhaustion on day two of organising a Model United Nations conference, the tension in my body when I said something in class and felt myself losing control over my own emotions, the joy at finishing yet another group poster presentation in the Multi Purpose Hall. And now, the palpable fear that I am unprepared for the world outside this bubble. Grudging acknowledgement that it is time for me to go, for a new phase of life to begin, for me to leave behind people I care about, to make room for new members of a continually changing, hopefully always-caring community. Time for me to give thanks, go forth, find out what awaits beyond clean walls and automated gates.