It's midnight. I ought to have been in bed -or, at least, packing up my notes strewn on the floor in preparation for bedtime- about half an hour ago.
(I ought to have finished my mindmaps for the chapter of Economics I'm currently on. Only a few more pages to go, but I got delayed.)
I got delayed by five minutes watching a video the Nanyang teachers compiled for this year's graduating batch, and then by another ten minutes as I dawdled about what to write in the description when I 'shared' it on Facebook. I wrote and backspaced many times and sometimes stopped to think, "Should I just make this a blogpost?!"
I made it to a concise enough description in the end, but clearly decided on posting a blog post of my thoughts anyway. A fair warning that these are sleepy thoughts and incoherent words:
Someone once said (I'm going to refer quite often to these anonymous geniuses henceforth, who have said quite nicely everything I feel) that we never step in the same river twice. That when we say goodbye to a place, we are saying goodbye to who we met-- and who we were. (And, arguably, our memories; for even our memories become tainted with time, and we are no longer sure what really happened.)
When I said goodbye to Nanyang two years ago, I didn't really mean it. It was like what I imagine children would feel like, saying goodbye to their parents as they left for the 'last time', keys in hand to the new place, the independent launchpad. (The school across the bridge certainly felt like that, a tantalizing new horizon around the corner from which we would become birds, fully-fledged to fly.) Then the children come back, first for forgotten trinkets, then, over the years, to ask for advice and to pay tribute.
You see, it's never really goodbye. I felt that if I was going to see my classmates around the corner everywhere in school, there wasn't much point in saying proper goodbyes. In fact, it would be mighty awkward if you confessed mushy forever friendships, only to see each other within a month like nothing happened. So I didn't, I refrained; in my heart I thought everything would be the same. (Hey, a half-rhyme.)
But two years have passed, and inextricably, I have changed. Nanyang has changed. My classmates have changed. I reflect on this with a modicum of sadness, because sometimes I don't know if I'd still like to be the person I was when I graduated-- and if I do, what does that attribute to the two years spent since? When I watched the video, my first thought was, I don't recognize anyone. Have we hired that many new teachers?
But as the video concluded, I found myself oddly emotional and maybe a little teary-eyed, which is odd because This does not happen when you watch a video of strangers! Then I realized: I may not recognize the actors, but I know the script. I know this place, I know this feeling. And I realized that no matter what bridges have been burnt and however far the distance that has grown between my 'pillow sack' and I, I have not and will not graduate from the character Nanyang built in me.
One of my teachers gave me a copy of The Little Prince in secondary 1. Inscribed in the cover was a quote from the Fox: "What is essential is invisible to the eye." And this is something I have kept close to my heart since. I am proud when people tell me, "You're such a Nanyang girl." For all its negative connotations (for some), for me it signifies humility, simplicity, diligence, prudence, resilience, and a commitment to what is good and lasting over what is transient.
We build our own homes. I have planted my flags, however carelessly, and some places have planted their flags in me. They are here to stay. Watching the video felt like returning to a childhood home and finding my voice still echoing in its halls. Like Hogwarts, Nanyang "will always be there to welcome you home."