Post-trip Conversation

The day after I came back I slept on my bed, thankful for the comfort of home. The months felt like a dream of sorts. I went out, met people, my life resumed as normal. Some people asked if I thought I changed after my trip, and having met them 1 week after I came back, I shook my  head slightly and said ‘I don’t feel very different’. It was not something I was sure how to answer. Someone dear mentioned it again last month, and I thought it was a more nuanced response. I would like to keep it.

: Do you miss sa? Haha

: Do you think it changed you

I replied:

10/16/15, 12:07:10 AM: Siangyee: Hahah well that’s quite hard to say, I can’t say I changed for sure, but I can’t say I think I didn’t change at all

10/16/15, 12:07:23 AM: Siangyee: Cause i don’t remember who I was before?

10/16/15, 12:07:44 AM: Siangyee: But it was an experience that added another tangible layer to my understanding of myself I suppose

10/16/15, 12:08:00 AM: Siangyee: And because these writers put it so much more eloquently

10/16/15, 12:08:13 AM: Siangyee: “It was one of those events which at a crucial stage in one’s development arrive to challenge and stretch one to the limits of one’s ability and beyond, so- that thereafter one has new standards by which to judge oneself.” – Remains of the day

10/16/15, 12:08:23 AM: Siangyee: I feel like this describes the experience best

10/16/15, 12:08:32 AM: Siangyee: And this line jumped out to me on the bus ride

10/16/15, 12:08:55 AM: Siangyee: It just sums it up – the fact that I now have new standards to judge myself

10/16/15, 12:09:09 AM: Siangyee: I suppose in that sense I ‘changed’ because I feel no anxiety for the Balkans

10/16/15, 12:09:36 AM: Siangyee: Whereas before the trip I might have found it intimidating in some ways but the established standards now calm me more?

10/16/15, 12:09:50 AM: Siangyee: “But then eventually the surroundings grew unrecognizable and I knew I had gone beyond all previous boundaries. I have heard people describe the moment, when setting sail in a ship, when one finally loses sight of the land. I imagine the experience of unease mixed with exhilaration often described in connection with this moment is very similar to what I felt in the Ford as the surroundings grew strange around me. ”

10/16/15, 12:10:04 AM: Siangyee: Also from the book which I felt I could relate to when I was reading it on the bus

10/16/15, 12:10:46 AM: Siangyee: So interesting isn’t it hahah the text is based on a different context and yet it’s so deeply relevant to me at that point

10/16/15, 12:11:31 AM: Siangyee: And I guess how I feel / felt about that trip / traveling alone is relatable to

It was good to walk faceless and talk to myself again, to ask where I was going, and who I was, and to realize that I had no idea, that all I could tell you was my name, and not my heritage; my daily schedule for the next week, and not the reason for it; my plans for the summer, and not the purpose I had whittled out for my life. — Sylvia Plath

10/16/15, 12:13:07 AM: Siangyee: Maybe it changes my subsequent actions but I can’t say that for sure either because there’s no large indicator or tangible measurable actions that followed after that trip hahah perhaps a more tangible indicator would be like, going to Africa alone or shaving my head or something hahah but no actions of mine are tangible enough to say that I did change

10/16/15, 12:13:59 AM: Siangyee: I guess we realize changes only after reading back on your past / remembering the person that you were cause it’s very slow very subtle and who’s to say it’s necessarily attributed to that trip

10/16/15, 12:14:44 AM: Siangyee: Best of all though I fulfilled my geographical dreams of the Amazon!!! And favelas!!!! and that’s something more tangible of sorts to me that I’m really really happy about hehe

10/16/15, 12:17:08 AM: Siangyee: I feel like in this stage of my life I’m acutely aware of mortality though and I dk if that’s because of the trip either and the immense fear that I felt before and at some points during the trip and the sense of gratitude that I have for being alive and back, maybe augmented I dk

10/16/15, 12:17:50 AM: Siangyee: ‘The world is no more permanent than a wave crashing on a shore. No matter our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into the wash, just like watery ink on paper’

10/16/15, 12:19:23 AM: Siangyee: I thought it was maybe more amplified after i got back, but then I stumbled upon this post in my archives this morning or yesterday

10/16/15, 12:19:55 AM: Siangyee: On 15th jan 2014

10/16/15, 12:21:14 AM: Siangyee: it’s a really long quote but im just gonna paste it here HAHAHAHA

10/16/15, 12:21:21 AM: Siangyee: “The real problem here is that we’re all dying. All of us. Every day the cells weaken and the fibres stretch and the heart gets closer to its last beat. The real cost of living is dying, and we’re spending days like millionaires: a week here, a month there, casually spunked until all you have left are the two pennies on your eyes.

Personally, I like the fact we’re going to die. There’s nothing more exhilarating than waking up every morning and going ‘WOW! THIS IS IT! THIS IS REALLY IT!’ It focuses the mind wonderfully. It makes you love vividly, work intensely, and realise that, in the scheme of things, you really don’t have time to sit on the sofa in your pants watching Homes Under the Hammer.

Death is not a release, but an incentive. The more focused you are on your death, the more righteously you live your life. My traditional closing-time rant – after the one where I cry that they closed that amazing chippy on Tollington Road; the one that did the pickled eggs – is that humans still believe in an afterlife. I genuinely think it’s the biggest philosophical problem the earth faces. Even avowedly non-religious people think they’ll be meeting up with nana and their dead dog, Crackers, when they finally keel over. Everyone thinks they’re getting a harp.

But believing in an afterlife totally negates your current existence. It’s like an insidious and destabilizing mental illness. Underneath every day – every action, every word – you think it doesn’t really matter if you screw up this time around because you can just sort it all out in paradise. You make it up with your parents, and become a better person and lose that final stone in heaven. And learn how to speak French. You’ll have time, after all! It’s eternity! And you’ll have wings, and it’ll be sunny! So, really, who cares what you do now? This is really just some lacklustre waiting room you’re only going to be in for 20 minutes, during which you will have no wings at all, and are forced to walk around, on your feet, like pigs do.

If we wonder why people are so apathetic and casual about every eminently avoidable horror in the world – famine, war, disease, the seas gradually turning piss-yellow and filling with ringpulls and shattered fax machines – it’s right there. Heaven. The biggest waste of our time we ever invented, outside of jigsaws.

Only when the majority of the people on this planet believe – absolutely – that they are dying, minute by minute, will we actually start behaving like fully sentient, rational and compassionate beings. For whilst the appeal of ‘being good’ is strong, the terror of hurtling, unstoppably, into unending nullity is a lot more effective. I’m really holding out for us all to get The Fear. The Fear is my Second Coming. When everyone in the world admits they’re going to die, we’ll really start getting some stuff done.”

– Caitlin Moran

10/16/15, 12:22:22 AM: Siangyee: and then i read it again (this morning or yesterday) and i just feel like wah ya i really agree so much with it, that the awareness of death “focuses the mind wonderfully. It makes you love vividly, work intensely, and realise that, in the scheme of things, you really don’t have time to sit on the sofa in your pants watching Homes Under the Hammer” and i was pleasantly surprised to know that my jan 2014 self had already started contemplating so

10/16/15, 12:22:27 AM: Siangyee: but i didnt remember

10/16/15, 12:22:50 AM: Siangyee: ” The Fear is my Second Coming. When everyone in the world admits they’re going to die, we’ll really start getting some stuff done.”

10/16/15, 12:23:12 AM: Siangyee: “The more focused you are on your death, the more righteously you live your life.”

10/16/15, 12:25:11 AM: Siangyee: so i guess i kinda realised it was this acute awareness that started creeping in end 2013 i suppose, and not necessarily attributed to my trip, and that when i reflect on the trip i probably gave more credit to it – thinking it changed my thoughts – than it might be worth (though it probably did augment it)

10/16/15, 12:25:48 AM: Siangyee: here ends my answer as to whether i think the trip changed me. TLDR: I think it did in some ways but it’s hard to define change IMO


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