190415: On Oscillating Narratives


An operatic mandopop song is playing through my earpieces and the wind from the air-conditioning is blowing into my hair from above as I sit back facing the direction in which this bus is traveling. It’s a Sunday morning. The aftertaste of hotcakes for breakfast is the taste of happiness– most of this happiness, derived from the fact that it was a meal eaten as a family.

Recently I found myself in a large meeting room, slightly colder than this, in the Singapore Press Holdings answering questions about my volunteering experiences from the time it all began. The reflections lasted no less than 1.5 hours—it was a little like telling the story of what had been my life after these humble 17 years. And at this point, I am reminded of another idea we discussed at YOUTHSPEAK just a week ago. This one’s about oscillating narratives. 

The only narrative I ever thought myself to have full ownership over was my own—the narrative of my life, as I decide where things go from every step of the way. But it is with the discussion at the YOUTHSPEAK conversation that I was exposed to the idea of owning my own family narrative and my own national narrative. The speakers at the conversation believed that every one of us had the right to our narrative in these aspects where we highlight the specific details that mattered more to us. This includes the Hokkien story in the national narrative, or the financial aspect to our family narrative. We all have the liberty to explore these different takes to the same facts. We can all tell our own narrative.

On this same note, a sociology study was cited to support the point that “the most resilient of families/ communities are not those who tell themselves the ascending nor descending narratives, but those who are willing to tell themselves the oscillating narrative.” Here, ascending narrative refers to the version of the stories that filter the challenges, the difficulties, where the happy ending was always a foreseeable future: the descending narrative being the direct opposite. The power in telling the oscillating narrative, is acknowledging the good times and the bad, giving credit where it’s due and provoking reflection where it’s necessary. In the same way, I suppose, the most resilient of people would also be those who learn to tell themselves the oscillating narrative of their lives— giving ourselves the well-deserved pat on our back for a job well done, but at the same time, to accept the times we’ve stumbled, and to forgive ourselves.


6 thoughts on “190415: On Oscillating Narratives

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