A dear friend of mine went home to be with the Lord last night—or this morning, by EST—and I just want to say you’re already missed, DL. Thanks for always being the direct, priorities-straight man of God that I could always count on to be completely honest with me, one who would question and even laugh at me when I needed to question and laugh at myself. That signature winning grin—one of a kind, no doubt about it, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again someday.
Heard on the T in Boston, over the announcement system, at about 7.20am in the morning, as I was making my way to South Station to catch the bus to NYC on Thursday.
Recently, I was unfortunately reminded that human relationships aren’t transactions - that you can put a lot into a friendship that you don’t get back; one mistake you make can negate hours of effort spent on talking, asking questions, listening, giving advice, being there. You can be forgiven, but what you did won’t be forgotten, and your association will bear the cost of that for an unspecified amount of time, at the very least. You can never earn enough “brownie points” to cushion the impact of a mistake you make on a friend. Apologies are helpful, but they’re not cosmic erasers - fact of life.
So what do you do about it?
Ok, with my skills from logic class, let me try and construct a logical argument here.
So here’s what we know about life - our premises, as they are, all with the truth-value of “true”:
Taking these first three statements into consideration, it follows that this fourth statement must also be true:
There’s a couple more premises I should add to the mix:
Taking the fourth, fifth and sixth statements together bears the seventh true statement:
Now, let me consider a couple of approaches towards life and friendship, after having made a mistake:
In light of the seventh statement, which approach seems more productive?
Let’s try this:
How’s that for a clear choice?
Here’s another version: If (A) people are always worth investing in, and (B) someone’s always going to make mistakes/get hurt along the way, anyway, then in balance, the truth of the matter is (C) we should always invest in people, and (D) we should come to terms with the unavoidability of hurt. Simple as that.
So here’s to accepting myself for the flawed person I am, and to not living life guided by senseless “is it possible that this will hurt me/I will hurt somebody?” dichotomies.
Have a five-star day. Don’t let anything, or anyone, get you down.
Cheesy as it sounds, my relationship with Oxford - and perhaps England, or the British Isles (to include Ireland here) more generally - really is best characterized as a romance. Yes, I lived there in the flesh for a good nine months, “suffering” through the most work-intensive period of my life up till that point, so I should have no illusions of its idyllic-ness, should be acquainted with its flaws, should at minimum have come to know and accept that it is a real place with real-place-imperfections and challenges. But there is no denying the rosy tint that my mind’s eye sees it in, still, no denying the truth that even when I’m actually there, soaked to the skin in its erratic rain, feet soiled from trudging through its mud, tripping over its uneven ancient cobblestones, I am happy.
Before I arrived this time around, I did wonder if I would have a different response to it, did wonder if it was just a one-time experience, did wonder if I would find that the spell had dissipated, passed its one-year expiry date. On the flight(s) over, I felt so distant from it, felt like the year before was a complete other life that I’d stepped out of. I felt like I was fighting my way back to the UK, that I had all this crud from the past year that I needed to shed off, that I was shedding off, in flight. Like I was reuniting with someone that I’d fancied and had fancied me back in the past, and finding out if we would hit it off again, if we could work something out. All I can say now is meeting met, romance rekindled, there is nothing I can do about it, I don’t quite understand it myself, it completely defeats my no-nonsense-minimal-drama sensibilities, bring on the rain and British clouds, I am helplessly in love.
Even more telling: I am completely unable to give a satisfactory response to the simple question, “How was your trip/Oxford/the UK?” I just start gushing stupidly, entirely incomprehensible as I ramble on and on in stock phrases like “it was amazing/awesome,” that don’t actually help the listener to picture what Oxford is like at all, nor what my friends there are like.
So here’s my attempt to be somewhat coherent.
I’ll start with Port Meadow, one of my favorite places in the world. I don’t think I’ll soon forget picnicking there with Tom and Daisy on one of my last days in Oxford last year, watching the horses and cows and sheep and geese across the river from us. Walking there with Daisy and Tom again this time, after a good meal and catch-up at the Royal Oak, was such a blessing.
There was the garden play we caught, Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest,” so typically Oxfordian in its setting and character. I remember sitting there and just marveling at the fact that we most definitely are back, watching a play in a courtyard just off the busy St. Giles road that’s magically quiet just by virtue of being within college walls, with the college Master sitting by his window, snapping photos. We also saw the improv group the Oxford Imps at the Wheatsheaf pub, and the press preview of the production that a bunch of our friends are involved with, Tamburlane - student performances, student-run, all incredibly professional. Always so much to see and do in Oxford.
There was the adventure to Churchill’s grave and Blenheim Palace that Sam spontaneously took us on, with music and a picnic feast in his boot! We sang Taverner’s “If Ye Love Me” to Churchill, jumped on the little train, conquered the second largest hedge maze in the world, visited the Palace’s state rooms, walked through the rose gardens - brilliant on all counts.
Of course, there was dear old Pembroke College. We attend and sang with the Chapel Choir for CU Chapel Service, we cheered for W1 in the Summer Eights rowing competition and watched them bump Wadham RIGHT IN FRONT OF US as we stood in the gut of the river, we chatted with the porters, we had formal hall in the newly renovated Forte Room, we ate ourselves silly with sandwiches and summer berries at the Garden Party - Pembroke pride, alive and well.
But most importantly, we hung out with these guys (and many others not pictured, of course!):
We talked, we watched youtube videos (or watched the boys play Tony Hawk’s…), we giggled and laughed till odd hours, our hosts had a barbecue and nearly all the Pembroke second years came out, we had lunch with Maria in Christ Church meadows (and then lay out in the sun on the grass for 3 hours), we sat for hours on a bench chatting with Ed in Lincoln, I had long meals and walks and talks with Singaporean buddies… It was magnificent. The kind of magnificent that leaves you in grateful disbelief, at the wonderful people you’ve gotten to know, at the strength and depth of your friendships. People whom you enjoy and trust, who feel the same towards you, and with whom it seems so easy to pick up again with, no matter the time you’ve spent apart or the different places you’ve been in.
So friends, and Oxford - again, I will see you later. How much later, I don’t know - might be a year or two, may be much, much more (especially given current finances) - but I don’t think I can stay away forever!
Goodbye, only for now.
I officially graduated today, this twenty-second day of May. A chilly Sunday, without much sun, but more importantly, with no rain. A long day, with an all-university ceremony at 9.30am, break for lunch with the wonderfully warm Teo family, plus Janelle at 11am, then the International Relations/Political Science/Latin American studies ceremony at 1.30pm, then dinner with the gracious Kincaid family, plus Charles.
The beautifully sunny Saturday before this, a deeply centering TCF Senior Service at noon, an elegant ROTC commissioning ceremony at 1pm, a fun lunch with Matt and Hope’s families at the Danish Pastry House, a funny and heartfelt Baccalaureate service at 3pm featuring fellow eleven-er Brian exhorting us to embrace the unknown, photo-taking and catching up with the Audet family thereafter, a festive graduation party at Molly’s at 5pm, then an intimate dinner with the Lim family plus Sonia, before ending the day - and our undergraduate years - off with the traditional candle-lighting ceremony on the hill at 11pm.
Points when I got emotional: when Larry choked up as he wished us well; when cheering for friends from the front row as they stepped across the stage - and when stepping across the stage myself!; when Professor Penvenne advised us to equip ourselves with kindness, generosity and patience, going forward; when friend’s families each welcomed me and others like surrogate children, sharing their lives with us, inviting us to visit and stay in touch, and expressing firm confidence that we would do well in life, however we might feel about ourselves.
Here, some words of thanks:
To my parents, for their love, in never witholding anything good from me, whether it was a rigorous and expensive education and the opportunity to see and learn from the world and its people, or sound discipline, a commitment to servanthood, and a relationship with God.
To my peers - both here and back home in Singapore! - whose inspiring examples both humble me and spur me on not only to greater personal achievement, but to greater acts of service, of thoughtful and change-making leadership.
To the families of my peers, from whom I have received so much hospitality, and who have shown me the genuine power of kindness and community.
To my teachers and professors, whose previous and continued investment in me and my peers are models of true selflessness, generosity, and what it to means to have in mind’s eye the greater good of society.
But most of all, to Him in the highest, who brings all people together, and who works all things out for good.
Elisha walked into the house today, carrying a big box. I’d noticed the big box earlier, sitting under the upstairs neighbors’ mailbox, so I hadn’t looked at it closely - apparently, it was for me! It’s always nice getting mail, but you can imagine how much more exciting it is to get Godiva mail - Coryn claimed she almost stole it herself (I’m sure she was kidding. I think.) It took me longer to rip the gift message off the box than to guess who sent it:
(These guys, minus Nils and myself, the ones who aren’t in Singapore. Incidentally, we’re on opposite coasts of the USA!)
Thanks so much, guys. (: Time and time again, I am constantly amazed by your friendship.
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. - 1 John 4:12
Today, I learned how to take screenshots on my Macbook. This is why! (:
Many <3s for Oxford friends!