The air in Singapore is crispier with a chill that actually warms the heart. It is that time of the year. When we yearn for the weather to be even colder, befitting winter, the last season of the year. It is also that time we look back at this miracle of twelve months. When we laughed, and cried. When we felt loved, and alone. When we were filled with hope, and despair. Today is the 31st of December. The last day of the year. Some of us have lived through more last days of the year than others. But that alone does not make us any wiser or better at facing up to what life unravels daily, weekly, monthly. In fact, with each passing last day of the year, we acknowledge we know less, not more.
During the year-end festivities, I came upon this twelve-year-old boy, a friend’s only child. He has an air of nonchalance that is almost intimidating. I asked, as I sometimes do, what is the one thing he wants to do when he grows up. He thought for a while. I thought he was thinking about my question. I would later realise he was considering if he should be direct with me. He chose to be direct with clear and exacting English. “How would I know? My mother is much older. She tells people she doesn’t know what she wants. I want to be a pilot. But I think I may end up as a blogger. Do you know what I mean?” I quickly said I know. He looked at me, unconvinced. But I know. I know how with all our knowledge and experience, what we plan or predict, we can get it so right, or we can get it so wrong. How life, like a magician, can turn drastically around, that within a year, everything we think we know can become unknowns.
For over ten years, this doctor friend of mine has been busy with his work. He travelled, he worked on big assignments, he learned new skills, he met new friends. But more than anything, he wanted to settle down. He wanted to meet someone to share his life with. He told me once he would imagine meeting his life partner crossing the road. Or taking a lift. The lift would open and there she was. His wife to be. In the last few years, I could feel the void in his life taking a toll. Yet last year this time, on the last day of the year, he told this girl he would like to pursue her. What developed this year was a whirlwind romance. Last week, I asked him what was the most important thing he did in this last year. He told me, without missing a beat, “Of course the day I told her how I felt about her.” What a difference the last day of the year makes. And looking at his life this year, what a difference one year makes.
As I am writing this article, they are moving into their newly renovated home. Another couple is expecting their first child. A friend has just undergone a bilateral mastectomy. Another friend told me he would start a new job in another country. And yet another friend’s aged mother has just been admitted into intensive care. They say change is the only constant. On this last day of the year, I feel and know, more than ever, that the essence of change is mystery, is the unknown. If you can plan a change, it is not really change. Change surprises with its unpredictability and it can be pleasant or unpleasant. On this day, a few big decisions and projects hang in the balance for me. I cannot say I am not concerned or affected, but I know life will take its course. As my doctor friend said, “While we plan, while we work, leave some space for God to do his handiwork.” With relentless rain this time of the year, I am reminded of the saying that life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain. And while we are at it, to always believe that something wonderful is about to happen. Because when we do believe, especially on this last day of the year, something magical happens…
‘I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.’ ― Gilda Radner