My good friend from KL was seconded to Singapore for six months by her company and during her stay in Singapore, I hardly meet up with her. Her working hours are long and the only available time to meet is on weekends when she doesn’t fly home. When we finally met for dinner on a Friday, she asked in all earnest if I am suffering from depression. She explained the classic symptom – no interest in going out, only want to go to familiar places near home – a symptom that a mutual friend’s mother suffering from depression shows. I had declined to join the girls on a girls night out in town on a Saturday once, and had explained that I won’t go beyond my estate in Clementi or Bukit Batok. To humour her, I agreed with her diagnosis.
Mike had also commented to me that I was turning into a recluse like my grandmother, refusing to go out. I had explained to him then that I am not comfortable with crowds and everywhere is crowded in Singapore, especially over the weekends. Thus, he had visited Marina Bay Gardens and the new Aquarium at RWS without me.
Still, the words of my husband and my friend niggle at the back of my mind and I told myself I should get out of my comfort zone more. As if someone heard me, I received invitations to attend two events recently. I was reluctant to go. It would be amongst strangers and I am not particularly good at socializing. I delayed replying, thinking they would take my non-reply as not attending, but they sms-ed me a reminder and made me feel rude for not replying. So I confirmed my attendance.
Last Friday, I attended the Strait’s Times Forum Writer Dialogue. My sister saw my check-in and reminded me that I had attended this same event seven years ago – when I dropped her off at a hospital to give birth to my now seven-year-old nephew before going off for the same event. This is in fact my third invitation to the event, which made people think I am such a frequent contributor to the Forum, which I fact, I am not.
The traffic was bad on that Friday evening and I arrived five minutes late. The refreshment was all gone except for a few pieces of sandwich, which I grabbed one before entering the auditorium. I was famished. The audiences were made up of mostly retiree males but there was an 11-year-old forum writer with her friend and a few youth contributors. An affable woman slid in next to me and introduced herself. She had only written in once, on the Primary one registration and was surprised to be invited. The Straits Times had evolved over the years and now have four editors helming the main print news, the Forum, the online news as well as for social media respectively. The questions raised by the audience were mainly the same as seven years ago, grouse about the limitation of space for the Forum page, the rejection of use of pseudonyms; but there were a few concerns about the replies from trolls to the letters online, to which the editor advised us to develop ‘a thicker skin’, for unless the letters were really offensive, then they would be deleted, as they cannot be edited. Forum writers were a vocal lot (expected right?) and there were many raised hands during Q&A. The dialogue ended two hours later and we were treated to a sumptuous dinner but I couldn’t stay as I had orders to buy dinner and supper from home. So with a longing look at the satay on the buffet table, I claimed my goodie bag and left.
This afternoon, I attended a get-together organized by charity organization Reads For Kids (R4K). I had donated my sons’ story books to the charity after I read about them in the newspapers. R4K was started by NUS student CunZhi in 2010. He started soliciting for story books to start a library at his helper, Nardy’s, village in the Philippines. Nardy has been with his family since he was two and when they visited her hometown, they wanted to bring something for the village and this small gesture expanded to three libraries in various villages today and they are now a registered organization with plans for China.
I was surprised at the invitation. I am not particularly philanthropic, having donated the books to R4K because I happened to be doing spring cleaning and CunZhi lives just a street away from my house. I was too lazy to sell the books, for which I had to photograph and list, although the sale had brought in good money before. So to be appreciated as a donor is somewhat overwhelming. R4K even got the kids to write thank you cards to donors.
Although I had wanted my family to attend together, I had to go alone in the end but was happy to meet a friend there, who had donated to them as well. It was an afternoon well-spent, as I marveled at the good work from this group of young people. My friend and I hope our kids could be like these group of people as we ponder how we could get them to volunteer.
Having got myself out of my comfort zone, I can safely assure my friends I am not suffering from depression of any kind. In fact, I am basking in positive energy.