Looking back at photos of myself when I was younger, I notice something.
Smiles always permeate photos. It's a natural reaction towards things that we know can be kept for a long time - we want to retain happy memories, not sad ones. Especially with the advent of photography, we know that we want to keep happy things to view, not sad things. It's just human.
But when I looked at photos of myself when young, it seemed as if everybody in the photos were all happy to be around me. It seems, from the faintest of my memories, that those were the good times. (Yes, this is me sounding as if I'm a retiree speaking...) Times when we could shamelessly hug our parents and squeeze them without suffocating them, when we could smile with two missing front teeth and nobody would poke fun. It contrasts very starkly to what I'm seeing nowadays.
As a nineteen year old teenager, I realize I'm becoming more and more sensitive to problems that occur in the world. It's a process of discovery, indeed. I see families in situations worse than mine. Some are separated from their parents, others have two living parents but are torn between them two being separated. At least I know with certainty that I'll never see my dad again, for he's no longer alive, but others have mothers and fathers alive, but cannot see them. Is that not a bigger torment than what I've gone through?
In a sense, having one less parent has been a liberation too. I am thankful for meeting up with other people willing to take over at least part of a paternal role in my life, people like Uncle Poh Bin. And others, for being willing to communicate with me and do things with me, people like Junning, Zhang Yi and Zhiming; they have been friends, good friends so far, even though they are at least 7 years older than me. I have another buddy who jokes with me the worst kind of jokes you'd ever hear - Guo Jing. But still, none replace the fatherly role that's left.
I spoke to Uncle Poh Bin two nights ago. He told me about his eldest brother, who is actually his closest sibling. Of 11 brothers and sisters, he and his eldest brother happened to share the same bed when they were younger, so they developed a special bond. 6 years apart, the elder one would always give him advice, one-on-one, just like the way Uncle Poh Bin does for me. I'm nobody to him, except the fact that I kept forgetting to turn off the lights when I stayed at his place (which is what he remembers me for), yet he is willing to dispense his life's experience to me whenever he deems it relevant to my life. (Just in that same conversation, he talked about many things, of which I remembered to (1) Invest in property whenever I have spare cash, and (2) Always keep an eye out for the sensitive spots of other people.)
Anyways, that was a digression. (I just needed an outlet to remember it properly.) Despair and misery surround me in this world; is there light? Is there a light that can shine a path through for us as a human race? Despair and misery - twin themes that sum up one of the truths of existence - suffering. I see broken families, I see stressed colleagues, I see lonely souls, I see needy people manifesting their needs negatively... How I wish there was a way out for the world.
How I wish.