It’s the first in-depth conversation I’m having with my cousin in a while, and uncharacteristically enough, it’s just the two of us. Now, I rarely have prolonged talks with this particular cousin of mine, let alone ones in which it’s just the two of us. But strangely, it’s not awkward. We get on the subject of friendship, and university, and love. And it’s at this point that my cousin turns to me and asks with a wry smile, “Want to go take a walk somewhere?”
So we walk. For what seems like an eternity in finding that beach park (which our uncle swore was only 10 minutes away), we walked. But the silences never last, because the both of us have so much to say. I divulge my fears and worries about my inability to make lasting and meaningful connections in university, and he likewise confides in me about his troubles. It’s a good conversation. University and travelling has changed my cousin and you can see it in the steadfast way he holds himself, or the newfound intensity and directness of his gaze. He approaches life with exuberance and purpose, and you can see it. “You know, I’m really proud of you. I feel like you’ve really found yourself, or you’re at least in the process of it.” I remark almost absentmindedly, voicing my thoughts with little deliberation. He seems startled at first, but his “Thank you” is warm and sincere.
I don’t tell him, but there’s an unspoken “I wish I were too” at the end of my sentence. I wish I were closer to finding myself, or at least finding some kind of direction in life. I thought the year abroad would cultivate independence and make me think more seriously about what I wanted to do, but instead I’ve only seem to have gotten more muddled. That isn’t to say that I haven’t learned anything being in the U.K, because I have. I’ve learnt so much about myself and the people around me, and I feel like each experience has made me fuller as a person. But with regards to my relationship and my future, I’m still at a dead-end.
Being in Hawaii, a lot of the people I meet (my uncle and aunt’s friends usually) bombard me with the well-worn question: “What do you want to do in the future?” And truthfully, I have absolutely no clue. I wish I could say “I want to find a nice and cosy cottage and live there for the rest of my life”, but that’s not the answer they’re looking for. I try to sound realistic and motivated. “Teaching,” I say, “Or a career in the publishing industry as a journalist or an editor or something.” They nod knowingly and I hope the smile on my face doesn’t come off as strained. As my 21st birthday draws closer, I wonder where all my excitement at becoming a legal adult is. All it seems to do is remind me of how the future remains a huge and scary question mark.
Emotionally, I’m a mess too. Checking social media and seeing nothing but happy and contented pictures of my friends with their significant others seems to be a taunt directed at me. Thinking about my relationship makes me feel ashamed, because I seem to have it good. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I have someone who says he loves me and would accept me despite all my flaws, and the only problem is that I wish I could reciprocate with the same intensity. Because now, I’m questioning a lot of my own feelings and whether I feel ready to even be in a relationship or not. I started off dating him as being the one who feels more, devoted myself more, displayed outward gestures of affections more. But over time as the insecurities began to eat away at me, I just felt tired. So seeing my friends seemingly having it so easy makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong.
These thoughts linger in my mind, but I only graze the surface of it during the conversation with my cousin. I’m not yet ready to talk to the full extent of it to him about it face-to-face, but the advice he gives me is genuine and well-meaning. I appreciate that. Because as much as my own concerns plague me, I’m happy that I could have this one month to reconnect with family again. I’m looking forward to going back to Singapore now, too.