Bittersweet Goodbyes Before Raffles Junior College Demolition - E343

· VC and Angels,Podcast Episodes English,Singapore

 

“The bitterness and the sweetness of life is what challenges us to really appreciate every moment.  Every goodbye has the potential and seed for a new beginning.  I wouldn't be the person I am today as a father and friend and colleague if not for the pain and joy of my time as a teenager.” - Jeremy Au

“Twenty years ago, we were just kids full of dreams and ambitions and fears. Today, we are adults remembering that childhood. I'm an adult full of dreams and ambitions and responsibilities.  In 20 years, I'll be an old person, remembering what it was like to be a middle-aged adult. It's a challenge to myself to really appreciate every moment as it goes by.” - Jeremy Au

“We were all suddenly old adults remembering how we were as kids. We were remembering the good old days and our memories together. One lesson that I've taken away is that this will happen more over time.  I was busy capturing photos and videos of the school so that I could remember it in the future when the school is long gone. Visiting this school that has so many wonderful, painful, powerful memories and made me realize how time flies.” - Jeremy Au

Jeremy Au reflects on his nostalgic visit to alma mater Raffles Junior College before its demolition. He remembers his initial excitement of joining a new school, bitterness over a personal loss, and the processing of his grief over the next 2 decades. He also reconnected with former teenage classmates who are now fellow middle-aged adults, all of whom were enjoying seeing the campus one last time. He discusses the fleeting nature of time and the value of treasuring each moment before they inevitably become memories.

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(00:49) Jeremy Au:

When I walked onto campus, the biggest emotion I felt was really about bitterness. As a teenage student, I had fallen in love, and unfortunately she had passed away. She died from a sudden attack of lymphoma, blood cancer. Within two short weeks, my entire world was inverted. It was a huge shock for myself, and I spent so much of that time floating around the school in a haze of grief. There was so much grief, so much pain and so much sadness back then, that I wasn't present as a student. I wasn't present academically, I wasn't present mentally. I was an absent student with a giant hole in my heart.

Now 20 years have sped by. I'm an adult. I'm a dad of two young daughters. I'm married to a wife. I'm building a career. It was so surprising to walk back on that campus and then suddenly feel that giant echo of grief. The emotion rang me like a bell. In fact, I was surprised that it still hurt. I thought that it healed and I believed I had healed. It turns out that walking the same school corridors that she and I had walked in could immediately bring back all of my bitterness and hurt and grief that I thought I had buried.

(01:50) Jeremy Au:

The second big emotion was really about sweetness, anxiety and excitement of first joining the school. I graduated from Anglo Chinese School Independent, which was a rival school of the Raffles system. I had wanted to go to a different college, but my parents felt that I should go to Raffles Junior College instead and I accepted their point of view. It was a happier time as a teenager. Excited to go to school and meet these new smart people. And yeah, make a new name for myself. I didn't know anybody. And of course I was anxious and nervous about going to a rival school. And when I turned up, there were many people who were standoffish or they already had their own cliques.

I still managed to find some new friends. We would leave school together to eat food at a nearby hawker center. I had this incredible sense of independence and autonomy. I had gotten into the number one school academically in Singapore.

I also remember the sweetness of falling in love. I remember starting to feel feelings for her. I remember figuring out how to tell her that I liked her. I remember how nervous I was telling her. I remember how happy I was to find out that she was open to liking me too. I wrote poetry. I said foolish things, I'd apologize. I had to make things right.

So beneath the bitterness I felt, as I walked through the corridors and I saw the old benches and old classrooms, I could remember the sweetness of those innocent days. That wonderful feeling of being a teenager with so much freedom and autonomy and feeling all those feelings. A wonderful open childhood.

(03:18) Jeremy Au:

The third emotion was really the sense of goodbye. All of us students were walking around remembering our own personal experiences with the school, the clubs that we are part of, the sports that we had played, the books that we had studied. I was surprised by how many people there were who were saying hello to each other. I ran into old schoolmates I hadn't seen for 20 years. The baby-faced students were now adults with slightly less baby face. Some of the fit people now have a belly.

So it was nice to see friends and reconnect and swap memories. So all these hellos between people who hadn't seen each other for so long, in the midst of this giant shared context of saying goodbye to the physical campus, it made it feel like a beautiful dream and just a little time capsule of love and grief and friendship and destiny.

(04:02) Jeremy Au:

In fact, in many ways, I'd forgotten that I also had first met my now wife at the school. We had been classmates and friendly acquaintances. You would only be 10 years after the school. After my army service, after university, after starting work, that we would first start dating, eventually go to the US together to do our MBAs that we would get married and eventually have two kids together.

So I decided to go to my now wife at a school. As I walked around the school, I suddenly realized that I knew a lot of other people. They were older than me by 10 years or 20 years. One was my boss's boss at Bain, my management consultancy job. There are other folks that were there and we were no longer in our formal roles, right? Elder, junior, big boss, subordinate, we were all just suddenly old adults remembering how we were as kids. We were remembering the good old days and our memories together. I guess one lesson that I've taken away is that this will happen more of a time.

(05:01) Jeremy Au:

I was busy capturing photos and videos of the school so that I could remember it in the future when the school is long gone and is now a set of public housing estates. Visiting this school that was going to be demolished made me suddenly realize how fleeting visiting this school that has so many wonderful, painful, powerful memories and made me realize how time flies.

I got married years ago and had a wonderful time. I have two wonderful, and I have such amazing mornings and evenings with them where we hang out and eat breakfast together and play with toys.

Even with all these powerful experiences, even though I'm living this reality now, the truth is that in 20 years time I'm going to be an old person with memories of having been married, of having the childhood with my kids. Every single place that I know today, every single office I work at today will become memories.

20 years ago, we were just kids full of dreams and ambitions and fears. Today, we are adults remembering that childhood. I'm an adult full of dreams and ambitions and responsibilities. In 20 years, I'll be an old person, remembering what it was like to be a middle aged adult. It's a challenge to myself to really appreciate every moment as it goes by.

(06:10) Jeremy Au:

In conclusion, life is full of bittersweet goodbyes. The bitterness and the sweetness of life is what challenges us to really appreciate every moment. Every goodbye has the potential and seed for a new beginning. I wouldn't be the person I am today as a father and friend and colleague if not for the pain and joy of my time as a teenager.

As a teenager full of grief and anxiety and nervousness, I had no idea who I would eventually become. I also had no idea how fast time would fly by and that all those big emotions I felt were just a passing moment.

Personally, I hope that I continue to cherish my own memories and my own personal experiences and to always remember that one day, all of these will just be memories. So I want to appreciate every moment and create some good memories and leave them as a gift for my future self.