The trip back to home earlier in May proved to be a rather emotionally-charged affair, one that spanned the entire spectrum between debilitating despair and invigorating jubilation. The five weeks spent back in Singapore, where it was sweltering most of the time, wasn’t much of a holiday affair since I had to work most of the time.
Regardless, returning to my former workplace at MediaCorp was a nostalgic experience. Apart from the slew of new faces, everything else seemed exactly as they were when I left about two years ago. The smell of the office, the sight of incredibly messy work cubicles, the dead silence in the newsroom and the banter with old friends was a welcomed treat for the senses. I was back at the paper to help out with their coverage of the 28th Southeast Asian Games which was held on home soil and though it wasn’t as exciting as I wanted it to be (I was stuck in the office doing copy editing and making sure the darn pages were good to go), the experience was nonetheless a memorable one.
You see, sports is a passionate thing. I’m a passionate thing.
If there’s one thing that can almost always draw the tears from my eyes, it’s sports. To me, it’s one of the most beautiful things in life where people don’t bother faking their emotions. That outburst of joy bellow when your football team scores a goal or that scream of despair when your team is completely overwhelmed by the opposition is as pure as emotional honesty can get.
When Shanti Pereira ended Singapore’s 42-year wait for a sprint gold by winning the women’s 200m event, I went mental. No, I don’t know the girl. I’ve only spoken to her once during the Asian Games. Nevertheless, an intriguing, invisible connection is forged with the athletes – perhaps by national pride and the innate desire to live vicariously through them – that fly the flag of your nation, no matter how small it may be, when they transcend their personal boundaries to achieve something spectacular.
While I managed to catch up with a few of my buddies during my rest days, I had also dedicated time with my grandma who recently suffered a relapse of her stomach cancer. We thought Nana had somewhat beaten the disease the last time round, emerging from the operating theatre triumphant and optimistic. She underwent another operation this time and the result was starkly different. She no longer looks happy and energetic. She is all skin and bones. She now needs help to even stand on her two feet.
I was browsing through my Facebook photos one night and came across a photo of her flashing a wide smile behind a huge cake during her 77th birthday which took place just last year and I instantly broke down.
One year. How quickly things change. Nana’s still talkative and feisty at times, but I see a certain resignation in her eyes whenever I visit her. She knows her time’s almost up, and she knows there’s no point fighting it.
Death, after all, comes for everyone.
A few friends and my grandfather have left this realm during the course of my life. All of them were sudden occurrences and I had reacted to all of them with shock. This is the first time I’ve had to deal with someone who is actually on the verge of existential termination.It’s weird. It’s difficult. It’s exhausting.
Most of all, it’s emancipating.
This whole emotional roller coaster ride was quite aptly summed up on the last day of the Games. Coincidentally, the Singapore national football team was playing a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Japan. In this scenario, Singapore aren’t even considered the underdogs – they’re really just lambs to the slaughter.
“Wow, I can’t believe the Japanese have yet to score against us,” said a colleague as we watched the match on television. It was more than halfway through the game.
“You know, I’m actually not that surprised. I mean, the Japanese players are flesh and blood too, you know?” I replied. “If our team sets out to park the damn bus on the pitch, man-mark the hell out of the Japanese and just run our damn lungs out, there’s every chance we can walk away with a point tonight.”
Snatch a point our national team did indeed. And it in turn made me realise that we are all, only human.
We are fallible. We have our limits. We will wither. We will eventually die.
But there’s also something beautiful about these very imperfections. Because acknowledging just how finite and imperfect our lives are can drive us to achieve what was once thought to be impossible.
That’s the soul of sports, and I reckon it should be the same for life. No?