The Singapore that I never met before, rolls by my window as Paul and I head to the airport. It’s been 7 years since I lived here and as I said in previous posts, the city isn’t anywhere near the same. I could tell you about the tall condo towers that have sprung up everywhere like mushrooming knitting needles, or the great restaurants and shops that cover every spare piece of land, or all the once dead areas that are now being built up as fast as concrete can be mixed.
But the real thing is that Singapore has grown up since I last saw it.
And as I rode past it all for the one last time on this trip, I remembered how miserable I was the last time I lived here. The first time was great in the 90s, the second time from 2001 to 2003 was awful. It’s the one thing that haunted me in the time that I’ve been here, the spectre of the person that you used to be seems to be waiting around every corner.
Every corner I passed has a memory attached to it and usually not a great one; catching cabs to a job I loathed, leaving a house where I supported a person I didn’t love anymore, walking around Singapore when every bone in my body told me I was supposed to be living a different life somewhere else.
Getting out of Singapore the last time was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Maybe the hardest. I resigned from my job, my relationship and my life on the island and at 32 with nothing to show for it but massive debt and a suitcase of clothes, I ran to Japan to bury my head in the sand in a post-divorce gig.
And to wonder how the fuck I had ended up in this situation when I had the twin gifts of privilege and choice.
Leaving Singapore was the start of years of soul-searching and trying to turn my life around. At times it felt like I was swimming by the side of a moving boat and trying to push the nose of it around to go in the opposite direction.
But I finally made it to LA and started the writing career that I’m on now. Seven years later I guess I’ve grown up into the person that I was always meant to be.
And so there it is, the part of the trip that I didn’t even realize I was dreading was confronting the past, only to find that it wasn’t there anymore. Singapore and I had both changed so much that my memory of me back then didn’t fit there anymore.
Instead, new memories of hanging with Ping and Stefan at their house eating Thai food, seeing Scott my old partner in crime again and working together at the old agency for a few weeks and mostly, walking around with Paul and experiencing Singapore all over again for the first time.
A great sense of relief washed over me and I grabbed Paul’s hand in the back of the taxi.
Paul: Thanks, this was a really great trip.
Karl: Yeah, it was, wasn’t it?