2015: What A Year To Be Singaporean

Usually, my end-of-year reflections don’t tend to extend nationwide. I can’t claim to be that patriotic nor politically zealous. But this year, 2015, what with it being SG50 and all, I guess an exception should be made. After all, it has been a rather exceptional year.

It has been, to say the least, an interesting year to be Singaporean. I know “interesting” is a terrible descriptor: fear not, I will eventually elaborate. I say interesting because 2015 can’t lay claim to being either good or bad – it was a heady mix of both. If national events had to follow a drama script, 2015 would be it. 2015 had everything.

As a nation, we’ve been put through an entire gamut of emotions much akin to the recently reopened Battlestar Galactica coaster at USS. And despite the ups and downs, we also realised that hey, at least we’re finally tall enough to get on the big kids ride. We grew up.

So much has happened that you’d be forgiven for forgetting exactly what, so lets remind ourselves.

March 2015: The sense of collective grief and emotion was never more palpable than at the passing of our nation’s founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. For most, we found in us an almost begrudging respect, an inexplicable sense of loss, and a belated sense of gratitude. I remember viewing Singapore differently; buildings were not just buildings, they were the products of cohesive planning, purpose and vision. I’ll admit, I was really riding that emotional wave. For a few days I couldn’t even look at my toothbrush without thinking that somehow LKY contributed to this too. (“I could be brushing my teeth with my finger!!”) But we cried, we queued, we memorialised, and we showed humanity in little deeds of kindness. And then we got back to work like good Singaporeans do.

June 2015: And just as we started to move on and celebrations for SG50 were ramping up (by ramping up I mean all around everywhere anywhere all the time), we were yet again confronted with a national tragedy of a different kind. The earthquake in Sabah on Mt.Kinabalu that claimed the lives of students and teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary was heart-rending and sobering. As Singaporeans we are not used to death by natural disasters. We’ve been blessed that it doesn’t tend to happen here. Yet amidst the sorrow there were stories of courage and selflessness, and again we mourned and eulogized in equal measure.

At about the same time, there was also that little event called the SEA Games, which, after a 22-year hiatus, was once again hosted by Singapore. #TeamSG spirit was flying high – despite, even perhaps because of the above tragedy – and we united as a nation, this time in cheerier circumstances. Medals were won, records were broken, heroes were made, and arguably best of all, everyone praised our “efficiency” in the running of the Games – a byword for excellence in the Singaporean context.

August 2015: Lest we forget (but really how could we), SG50. Whilst everything else had been going on, our year-long celebration of turning the big 5-0 trudged on in the background. At times, like when people decided that even fish cakes needed an SG50 face-lift, it was tedious, and at others, like when everything from public transport to museum entries were free, it was brilliant. But so inundated were we with these SG50 shenanigans that by the time August 9th arrived, I was quite ready to watch the last firework explode and call an end to the party. But given what was coming up next, NDP couldn’t pass by without some not-so-subtle reminders that “there was a time when people said….” etc etc.

September 2015: The General Elections. Finally, an event that passed by without drama….. Not. In a nutshell, we complain complain complain but in the end we still love PAP. (Sorry, that’s my completely politically-unsavvy summary.) Perhaps it was the newly shaped fish cakes that swayed public sentiment, perhaps it was something else, all we know is PAP’s overwhelming victory at the elections could be described as surprising, comforting and/or worrying…. Or, in their own words, “humbling”.

October 2015: As the smoke from the aftermath of the elections cleared, we also realized that in other news, the smoke had in fact not cleared. Yes I’m talking haze. For about 3 months from September through to November, the annual pilgrimage of smoke and ash from Indonesia’s forest fires once again made their way to our shores. Only this time, it lasted longer than usual and bordered on hazardous for large periods of time. Schools had to close, N95 masks for awhile became more queue-worthy than Hello Kitty, and annoyingly I couldn’t play soccer for 2 weeks. 2 weeks dammit!!! Ok but jokes aside, it was pretty bad and we truly learnt to appreciate the finer and freer things in life like fresh air.

I’m pretty sure I missed out a few things along the way but even then, it’s been quite a ride this year. I appreciate that while we’ve experienced both the good and bad, in everything we’ve also seen glimpses of humanity and discovered in us some things we never knew we had.

I thank God for a place I can proudly call home, which, while not perfect, holds so much I can be thankful for.

What a year to be Singaporean, and may your 2016 be laksa-filled, lacking in MRT breakdowns and abounding in durians.

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