I am 22 this year.
Every time I board the train I am faced with a whole host of decisions to make. To sit or not to sit? An old person comes on to the train. I give up my seat but he refuses to sit down. He gives it instead to an old aunty next to him. “Aunty, 你坐”. I am slightly embarrassed even though there wasn’t any reason to be. Who would remember the girl who gave up her seat?
A few stops later, I find another seat. I shift my backpack on my lap and lean my chin against my laptop. An old grandfather comes on board, but I am too tired. I fiddle with my phone, look down and slowly close my eyes. I “sleep” for the rest of the journey until I reach my stop. I am not in the priority seats both times.
In school I find myself alone in the central library, panicking about my dissertation, panicking about how little time I have left. I told my parents I would TRY to push my CAP up by a class. My parents did not hear the try. They are sure that it is going to happen. And they think it is easy enough.
I feel the pressure mounting.
Alone again, I put off eating until 3.30pm. Then I walk quickly to the Arts Canteen to get a waffle. Quick and easy.
I am stopped on the way back to the library by hall residents who want to sell flowers for Valentine’s Day. They want to build wells in Cambodia. I stand there munching on my waffles as he talks about what he is doing. I am not really listening.
Every time I panic I feel like writing about it. But it’s counterproductive because I panic about the time wasted in writing about my panic.
Panic is such a strange word. How did someone, decide on putting all these letters together in this sequence.
“ early 17th cent.: from French panique, from modern Latin panicus, from Greekpanikos, from the name of the god Pan, noted for causing terror, to whom woodland noises were attributed.”
I am such a time
I have always been afraid of being open to people. I guess a part of it stems from the fact that I do not want to be vulnerable. I do not wish people to take pity on me or use what they know of me to take advantage of me.
My parents do not even know about the relationships I have had because I know that they would never understand. I have seen it happen to my brother. He might be able to take the judgement, but I cannot.
And it is better off that they keep thinking I am some unwanted soul that no one likes.
I could never pour my heart out to someone. There is always some part of my history which I am hesitant to talk about and that I would never feel comfortable to reveal.
There is this constant conflict between my loud and rowdy self and my quiet, introverted self. My friends see my fun and rowdy side. My parents only see the good. I feel suffocated when my friends and parents are in the same room. I do not know how to act.
I feel the constant pressure to maintain this perfect image of a daughter that they trust and love. I keep my school life and my life on social media as far away from my family as possible because my family judges all the time. They disapprove and they try to impose their views on me.
The less they know the better. I do not want to get into arguments with them because frankly, I am too exhausted to even do so.
Every night I am in a reflective mood. I think about all my mistakes, all the people I did not show appreciation to… I am suddenly full of courage and express myself more liberally and with less caution than I would in the day time.
Maybe it is the darkness of the night that I feel is keeping me safe, wrapping around me like a blanket so that no one sees the fear in my face.
One that doesn’t involve me
Is it not okay to,
still be painfully directionless
at the age of 22?
When the rest of your friends have
jobs already planned out,
and people whom they want to marry.
Even a house, sometimes.
They’ve transitioned into adulthood
But your mind is still
stuck and struggling
back when you were five and
playing in the sandpit with all your cousins
or blushing at the side of a locker
when a crush
stared you straight in the eye.
Is it not okay to still like
doing silly things?
Like dancing in a room full of strangers
amidst judgement and whispers of :
“she’s such a drunk kid”.
Or wearing shorts everyday because dressing up is
too much of a chore
It’s not like anyone is looking.
I like things.
Like music, like gossip, like reading and writing
but none so much that I’d want to do it
for the rest of my life.
So where do I go?
Are we all going to be forced into the rat race,
where even rats act like better
human beings than us
who are only robots,
mechanically driven by want of money
and envious looks from the
“connections” we call friends.
Is it not okay,
to not know who I want to be?
They say excuses are only for people
who don’t want it bad enough.
Maybe that’s true.