It is May (one of my favourite months despite it not being my birthday month) and that means that 1/3 of the ‘supposed to be better’ 2021 is over. Time is flying by so quickly that I don’t even recall what I’ve done throughout the year but it doesn’t really matter cause time with COVID won’t really be worthed remembering in the future right?
I started penning this post on the first sunday of May and right now it is the second sunday of May and I can’t seem to remember the emotions/thoughts that were within me from one week ago. It’s funny how nothing is moving in my life, yet my thoughts can’t stay in the same place. On a side note, the COVID situation turned a little negative in my country and we are back to limited social gatherings (capped at 5, instead of 8) and the closure of several indoor exercise facilities (which does not affect me at all). Few days back, I did start to get a little worried as the community and un-linked cases were increasing. Furthermore, some of the ‘infected’ ones were already vaccinated plus many of which did not show any symptoms at all. This virus is getting more and more random and mysterious and irritating. I’m starting to make no sense of the extended ‘protection’ measures and somehow feel that the future will never gonna be the same again. We are pretty much going backwards; to the days where ‘travel’ was expensive, inconvenient and.. risky. urgh.
Alright, let me steer back the conversation to this random thought I had some weeks ago where I was trying to break down and understand the precious ‘relationships/bonds’ between two people – what determines whether people keep in touch for a really long time or not. As I grow older, I tend to wonder how amazing it is that I’m still in contact with Friend A and Friend B; and sometimes feel a little regretful that I’m no longer in contact with Friend C anymore. With the extensive connection with social media and all these messaging platforms, it is so easy to keep in touch with (many) people; but at the same time, the physical distance just seems to increase further too. Yea, with technology ‘you’ can just be a message away but somehow the space between two people seems as vast as ever. You gain some, you lose some and.. ain’t this how contradictory life is about?
I spent some time thinking about the number of people I still keep in touch (somewhat) regularly and I could somewhat categorise them into the various groups – (1) the schoolmates, (2) the ex-colleagues (and current), (3) the people I met because of travel, (4) the people that share similar interests with me and (5) the ones I met online. There are many ways we ‘keep in contact’. There are the ones I meet physically on a more regular basis (always being free to hang out often), the ones that I meet for a specific purpose (e.g watching movie/arcade/expensive dining), the ones I meet once in a while for ‘catch up’ (e.g. annual Christmas meetups) and the ones that I meet because of necessity. Then, there is this interesting group where I don’t meet physically often, but we try to keep the contact via social media, be it via a proper chat or just the ‘reactions’ via my excessive ‘Insta-stories’.
On a side note, when was the last time you typed a long email to a friend? Don’t you miss the days where ‘WhatsApp and Instant Chat’ don’t exist? It is the time where you write/type a long letter/email, put thoughts into your writing and perhaps re-read it before you send it out. I used to have a few ’email-pals’ where I kind of met online and we did some mini cultural exchange via email, discussing about random things like school and life in general. She was trying to improve her english (and later on chinese) and I was pretty impressed with her dual-language ability, given that she didn’t learn english/mandarin since young. (Although I am kind of bilingual, I don’t see myself as being amazing because everyone around me is bilingual and it was just the way we were brought up). Our emails lasted from 2009 to 2012 and I think in the final email, we exchanged social media accounts (Facebook/KakaoTalk) and that was kind of the ‘end’ of our conversation. After all, we were all growing older and getting busier in our day-to-day life and I guess spending 20-30 mins each time on an email to a friend you barely know, is indeed a luxury. I also have another interesting friendship with another pal (which I’m still in contact with) who was originally my customer when I did gmarket sprees. (I was so bored earlier this year and I dug out our old chat conversations and this is our 10th year since we met ‘online’.) When people ask us how we met, it is not the usual school, work connections but we seriously ‘met’ due to online shopping. But of course, that was just the start. We continue the conversation over the years because we ended up having much more similarities and interests and I think I even traveled with her a couple of times. Now that I look back, the random friendship kind of solidified over the long email conversations we exchanged back then.
Apart from writing emails, I went through that phase in life where I wrote a lot of letters. It started at the age of around 13 for me, where my friends and I (mainly my classmates and CCA mates) exchanged letters (with fancy letter set) regularly. We will ‘surprise’ each other by putting the letter on each other desks’ early in the morning or during recess time. At that time, we played the ‘angel and mortal’ game as well and it was fun and interesting to receive small gifts randomly. There are days where I spend a lot of time on each letter, sharing the teenage problems of the younger years and providing advice. Some things are easier written than spoken. Somehow, we are able to be more ‘open’ with our words in these letters. I did try to re-read some of these letters few years back and it was super cringe-worthy but.. I guess that’s the bittersweet feeling of youth and innocence. I still keep these letters somewhere in my room and I really have no idea what I’ll do with them when I get even older. It’s the same for all those diaries that I have. In case you are wondering, I do write a lot (which was why I started this blog anyways) and I like to reminisce about the old days randomly. Maybe that’s why it is hard for me to look ahead in life and move on but.. each to its own. I’m comfortable the way I am (:
Another thing I really miss is really talking on the phone, for extended periods of time. I vaguely remember when I was in primary school, I talked on the phone for 6 to 8 hours – eating and doing homework via the phone. Those days, the phones were not cordless yet (at least mine wasn’t) and I was stuck to the phone line for a really long time. When I got older, we had mobile phones and I still loved talking on the phone as SMS was only limited to 160 characters. There’s still a certain warmth in knowing that the person on the other end kind of gives you ‘full’ attention. These days, the phone calls I’m having are mainly spam calls and I do have the very occasional calls from this one ex-colleague who loves talking out her problems with me. Somehow, I am an aunt agony for most of my friends’ problems as long as it is not relating to BGR issues – which I often tell them to not look for me – as my only advice to them would be to break up and move on.
In all honesty, it takes a lot of effort (from both sides) to maintain the friendship. As we get older, we are presented with more and more options and things to do during our free time and ‘catching up’ and ‘maintaining a friendship’ could possibly become of equal importance as going for a workout, watching netflix or perhaps less important than work. Writing for this blog has also somehow fallen out of priority for me (which is why I write far less than before) and there’s just too many distractions in our day-to-day life to stay focus. While I don’t have a lot of friends (then again, what’s a perfect definition for ‘a lot’, can you put a number to it?), I think the people I am in contact with today (or perhaps through this covid period 2020-2021) are the ones that I’m gonna continue the rest of my life with. It is true that the older you get, it becomes harder and harder to become true blossom friends. In fact, the ‘newest’ close friend that I acknowledge was from 2017 and the rest of the people that I’ve met after that.. I’m not sure if we will still keep in touch 5 years from now.
Today, most of my closest friends were from school (duh.) and some from the workplace. An advantage of being in Singapore is that everything and everyone is very within ‘reach’. There isn’t any pressure for us to move out of our hometown to stay in the city, to be nearer to our workplace and the schools I attended were always within 15-30 mins duration from my home (apart from university, which was a 50 – 70 mins away via public transport. It is really a lot easier to keep in touch due to the close proximity and most of my friends (from school) stay near me too. I also belong to ‘cliques’ (aka group of friends – yes we have names for our cliques too) where we organise regular meetup session during Christmas / new year. There seem to be some unspoken ‘tradition’ where we rely on one during such festivities. Although I’m not close with every single person in the ‘clique’, it is still proud to ‘belong’ to a clique over all these years. Officially, I belong to 3 cliques – one from secondary school, one from JC first three months and the last one from university. Apart from being classmates, I’m also close to a few (at least one) of my ‘CCA’ mates. Back then, CCA activities were intense and we had camps and stuff like that – the time we spent together was fun and not academic-driven.
Another source of my ‘friends’ came from my workplace. Since my first full-time job, I have this dumb rule that I always try to enforce to the best of my ability. I would prefer not to have my current colleagues follow my social media platforms. One of the reasons for this ‘rule’ was that if they were to follow me on social media (which I post very often), they would be so updated with my life that we may run out of things to talk about in our day-to-day workweek (during lunch breaks and blah) because they would have already seen what I did all weekend. Another reason why I don’t want current colleagues on my social media is that when I go on leave (and post a lot of lovely photos on social media), my poor colleagues are the ones that have to work doubly hard during my absence. I guess it is not very polite to be enjoying while they ‘suffer’ right? These had been my ‘rationale’ all along and I am able to control my ‘facebook’ friend requests but as my Instagram is a public account (intentionally left public since I have this public blog), I can’t exactly ‘stop’ them from following me – it is their free will; though I would have preferred they don’t. Anyway, I do have quite a number of friends that I’ve met from work. The amount of time you interact with your colleagues is somewhat similar (or in fact more) to the amount of time you spend with your classmates. In case you’re wondering on the level of ‘closeness’, I do go overseas with my colleagues too. Perhaps one thing to note is that we aren’t always in the same ‘department’. Ha.
The last category of ‘friends’ for me belongs to the area of ‘common interests’. If you follow my instagram, you would probably know that I have a lot of random interests – ranging from travel, the stock market, checking out bargains/deals and of course my fan-friends. The danger of being friends with such commonality is I often worry about what happens when someone falls out of interest and.. how hard it would be to keep in touch when that happens. I have experienced it somehow and I don’t like the outcome of it but I’m still struggling to see what can be done about it at times I just tell myself to.. let it go~~
Apologies that this topic is just as weird as it sounds. Wanted to think of something which included the word ‘May’ and some way or another, I ended up writing this really awkward post. Do share your thoughts with me about the tips you have on keeping in touch with your friends. Do people really get lonelier when they get older and what can we do about it? Sometimes as much as I tell myself that I’ll grow used to solidarity and that I’m fine being alone and blah, a part of me still hopes that I can keep the support of friends close by, forever.
Hope your May is as happy as mine! Though the whole COVID situation is as terrible (or in fact more) as it has been, the only thing you can control is your emotions and figure out how to find the mini happiness to change your mood.
Stay safe and mask up! (when can I stop using this as an ending statement ><)