Secret(ly Confused)

familyphotofromchristmasThis evening I am in The Colony @ SCAPE, on one of the orange seats with odd-shaped holes that form an abstract piece on every backrest. Sitting cross-legged, waiting for time to pass before the Halogen Huddle at 7P.M.. The white circular tables are arranged sparsely apart and on this Boxing Day holiday, the crowd is small– every one of us strategically spread out across this room, each taking one table on our own. It’s comfortable, there’s some kind of silent respect toward one another’s personal space and the Wi-fi is strong (that pleases me). I’m browsing our family photos from the recent Christmas family gathering, feeling infinitely thankful to be blessed in the company of family members who make it a point to reunite every Christmas to share one another’s ups and downs, play games and do our own Secret Santa arrangement simulating some kind of prize presentation ceremony, just the way we like it.

With that said, for today, I’d like to tell you a secret. To make this clearer (and possibly to manage your expectations), I feel the necessity to first explain that I am actually one with little ‘secrets’ (or so I’d like to think). For strangers that I’ve met for the first time, it only takes a warm smile and a genuinely-interested vibe to keep me talking for the next ten minutes or so. And if you ask the right questions, the rest is a breeze and we could be talking for days. Or months. So when I say ‘secret’, I’m not actually referring to something incredulously confidential that cannot be spoken to a single soul till the end of time, but something that is essentially, close to heart. And hence, as I write this and you read: I don’t require the promise of sealed lips, but of open minds. Here goes, today’s is about family.

My family has been a constant for me throughout my life: made up of unbeatable cheerleaders who brought me the support I needed in every milestone of my life, I have always managed to count on their advice, presence and love. I remember as a 7-year-old in primary school, I had my birthday celebrated in my classroom one day before the special day. There was an elaborate surprise: a colourful mermaid cake, little goodie bags, and the presence of my mom. Of course, like any flawless surprise, everyone else was roped in– my teachers and classmates had long been kept in the loop. Then years later when I was about to graduate from primary school as a 12-year-old: just as I thought there would be no way my parents could pull off a birthday surprise for me again, I am brought to tears by all my favourite schoolmates gathered downstairs my house for another surprise yet. Just like that– time and again, like an expert birthday party planner, my family has managed to make me feel like a special little girl as I was growing up. For that, I am incredibly fortunate.

In the recent years, things have changed: my family remains a constant, but in a different way. They have accommodated my short temper, my mood swings and the flaws of my personality as a teenage girl. As I scrambled around with the excitement of this thing called “passion”, they followed quietly behind me ready to cushion me on the days I fall. The days I cry from exasperation and the times I ’emotionally ventilate’ over a tub of ice cream, they give me the space I need and I’ve came to learn that it’s in itself, a form of love. With the realisation of my evolving self and their dynamic love shape-shifting and transforming to embrace me, I have come to appreciate the family days that we still get to share amidst their busyness (and business). For a while, every time I talk about this powerful love I shared with my family, my voice would shake and my hands would turn cold. It was overwhelming: the perceived flawlessness.

In the recent months, things have changed: my family remains a constant, but I have learned new things about us. Maybe it was the recent fiction book that I read or the lesson from a show I recently watched— I have been piecing together the pieces of my memory that form the flaws of my family, and learning that I’m not special. I’ve been sieving through my memory and learning that these incidents I once cast aside as ‘exceptions’, were patterns. And that these patterns are only proof that people who love each other, can hurt each other too. Just like the friends that I have made in my life, just like the people who’ve confided (if not, cried) to me about the troubles they face at home, I have my own. I’m not special. The family who remains my support group in the strongest form, I have learned, is more sophisticated than I’ve always wanted to believe: amongst us we share a whole array of flaws, or imperfections that make us less than the ‘good’ people we strive to be.

I feel like a silly 5-year-old for having once thought we could be perfect. (Perfect is such a stupid word)

It is expected of me to love unconditionally and look beyond our flaws, or differences. It sounds a little like choosing oblivion, but I’m not sure: because if being family and loving someone is about wanting to tide through thick and thin, and become better people together, then is it not the flaws that we must first come to terms with? And what comes after ‘coming to terms with’, trying to change a person? Who am I to anyway. 

It’s not easy to be writing this one and I apologise for any incoherence, but thanks for reading with an open mind.

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