144 The Disenchantment of Our Existence

the unfiltered view of sunset from my hostel
“Disenchantment” is such a lovely, bittersweet word.

This I wrote onto a Post-It on my desktop, having discovered the word in one of my readings- ironically, during the lead-up to the main test I had this grade-free first semester in NUS, when surely all freshmen must in some way or another be becoming disillusioned with the heady ideals with which they chose their majors.

For “disillusioned” is all “disenchanted” really means, but somehow the latter sounds a lot more magical and mysterious than the former. Rather than something tricksy and indeed, a little nasty, an enchantment sounds so much more romantic (didn’t Audrey Hepburn say you had to be a little in love with every one of your leading men to play a role well?). I always liked the idea of that- and the corresponding attitude to life it demanded, that we be a little in love (if not more) with every pursuit we take up, whether for the better or worse.

What this inevitably means is that every journey you embark on must shrug on the proverbial arc of a love story. You fall in love. Behind your new rose-tinted glasses everything is shrouded in the mist of fairy-tale. You love everything about your new pursuit- the ethics, the arguments, the dilemmas, the stories… You wonder where the plaintiffs and defendants ended up after their cases ended. You wonder how anyone could have mustered the will to defend someone against whom public opinion raged- you wonder at their dedication to the belief that one is innocent until proven guilty- you wonder how it is that you enter the case believing instantly in the guilt of someone you have never met.

But then the little intricacies of daily life and the daily grind start to set in. The way your lover never closes the cap on the toothpaste, or leaves expired loaves of bread in the kitchen. The way the cases just kept on coming and you couldn’t see the overarching theories and movements for the details. The way you can’t muster up any sort of passion whatsoever to argue about certainty in contracts. The way a three-hour seminar is the antithesis to your idea of a perfect Friday morning in bed.

You start to remember the life you led before. Or, if you prefer, the lives you led before- for how many have you led exactly?

I had a nightmare the other night- that I had to live my thirteenth and fourteenth years again, except with my current mind trapped in an old body- that initial heady optimism, that life is going to change for the better and this new exciting journey would be the best yet- before being encumbered by the realizations of “different”, of “popular”…

Social media doesn’t exactly help. If law is my new lover I see others who have chosen differently- who have been with the one I had before, who have stayed. Would I have been happier there? As I recently wrote to a friend in an e-mail, surely it is a testament to resilience and adaptability that we must always wonder if we would be happier somewhere else. But equally essential to the strength of our character must be the ability to be happiest where we are.

For just as we become disenchanted with where we are, we must be aware of how we tend to slip off our rose-tinted glasses, only to put them on in the perspective of the past- to romanticize and over-glamourize our memories of where we were before. “Wasn’t I so happy then?” you wonder, forgetting instantly the gritty details that made you leave.

It is a painful, sobering feeling to be disenchanted with your journeys on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. But at the same time, it is an oddly comforting one- like the swallow of bittersweet coffee- knowing that as long as you can always find something to fall in love with, you can never leave. And the knowledge that what keeps you staying does not need to be what attracted you in the first place is the balm that soothes your soul during the storm.

There may have been equally happy (or dare I say, happier) paths elsewhere; but oh, what a joy to be on the one I am.

No comments:

Post a Comment