"Wait, where do you work again?" The doors close and the lift hums its way up twenty-one floors. I know the hum. I know the dim lights and the whirr of the fan.
The name of my company sounds foreign the moment it is out of my mouth. Detached, like I know nothing about that place. That's funny, I think. I spend five days a week there. Forty-six hours a week I sit at a desk amidst the quick footsteps of little children, think about ways to make the lessons as engaging and enriching as possible, stand in front of a class, ask for examples of precise verbs, remind eager students to raise their hands before they speak, dish out encouragements. A drop of ink makes a million think, a quote on the wall reads. I know my kids. I genuinely adore (most of) them. I pray for their flourishing. I go to bed laughing about their silly / ingenious responses. (Sometimes the line between the two is not clearly defined.) But right now I'm back here and the chicken porridge tastes just like it used to. As expected, the soft boiled egg has become hard because it was left out for too long. The view from the twenty-first floor is just as expansive, the apartments like dominoes, a glimpse of the sea beyond. The mighty wind at the landing tousles my hair all the same. And right here, right now, the name of my company sounds like a scrawl in a foreign language. I pronounce the words, I see the letters form, but they mean nothing mean to me. I stare at the name, perplexed.
I was in this room less than a week ago, too. My car had decided to break down in the parking lot at Star Vista, and Jerlynn and I needed a place to worship after dinner, so we headed to Elm. As I stared at the walls of Xueyin's room, I caught myself wistfully missing my own dorm room. It was a space that was truly and fully mine. I felt absolutely free to be myself in that room, to sing in worship without fear, to say my prayers out loud. When I lay in bed under the twinkling fairy lights and gazed out the window, the sky beyond felt like an extension of me. The silent, breezy afternoons and the lamp-lit nights were all mine, all me. I could stare at my Caravaggio painting and talk to God in my head. I could kneel and speak my heart out loud to my Father. I had Christian suitemates, Xueyin was one floor away, and Serena's room was saturated with peace. I could spend the night in the tranquil company of a trusted soul if I wanted to. I miss having that space that was fully mine. (I have a room to myself now too, but it isn't the same. This house isn't mine in the same way, I'm not in a Christian space, sound travels far more easily throughout the house, and my room has stuff from the past seventeen years, not all of which feels like a part of me right now. Heck, even the me four years ago feels like a different person. Freshman me was far more excitable, far more foolish with my trust, far more volatile.)
The second I caught myself missing my dorm room, though, I let the thought go. Yale-NUS is no longer mine. In fact, very little of me remains attached to what it is now, I guess. Save the fact that I have many friends there still, the Yale-NUS that it is now is not the one I knew then. My Yale-NUS was a community of 150 that all sat together at lunchtime. We'd go up from the CAPT Auditorium after our CC lecture to the RC4 dining hall and sit with whomever, because we were all a family. We left post-its on each other's doors and carolled with ukuleles down the corridors. We shed tears on each other's floors and bared our souls to the core in the dark of night. We curled up on each other's rugs and had sleepovers in the common lounges. Our uniform was sleepwear. Even the profs wore sandals. The Yale-NUS that my school has become is a very different one, and I no longer belong to it. And that's totally okay. It's flourishing healthily and I am glad for it (for the most part). But the present Yale-NUS is not the one I tie my love to.
So what is this limbo now? No longer here, but not on the other side enough to own it, either. One has become a foreign community, and one is yet a foreign name.
"Something slip," Nathan says during our Taboo game. "It's a guy."
"Freudian," I say instantly.
"His first name too."
"Sigmund Freud," Xueyin answers. Nathan moves on to the next card.
"Wow," Jon Chew muses.
"Nah, just Yale-NUS," I reply candidly. Not all of us are psychology majors or whatever, and not all of us might remember Freud's theories in detail, but we all remember enough from MST to spill his name and a cursory statement or two. That's the liberal arts in a nutshell, we sometimes joke.
"It's true," Xueyin laughs.
Some things remain, like the frustration over certain common curriculum modules and the excitement over certain dedicated professors. Many things have changed. I remember Yale-NUS for what it was to me, and what it did for me. It was an incredibly transformative four years, but the time has passed. My mission field has changed, I know that for sure. While I used to devote my attention, service and prayers to the campus, I am now called to be His light in a different place. And with that, I get up, lift my cross back on my shoulder, and go.