this year has been one of the most life-changing ones for me. the old milestone which every singaporean son must conquer: the ever-dreaded national service, something that to me, seemed milder than the days spent in NPCC back in HCI. I thought this way even when my head was still bald, and my rank holder, empty: now, here I am with my chevrons, facing what I must have once been – absolutely terrible.

deadpan aside, the oppressed is now the oppressor: but now, I guess I can truly see the frustrations my commanders must have had – you really do end up caring a whole lot for them, to the point where you feel responsible for them to do well, and to this end, you feel the need to scold and punish them, as though they were your younger brothers. i knew i was younger than most of my men, but in my eyes, they’re all 16. with this mindset, I guess it helped me to do my job better – i had to counsel them, talk to them, motivate them, scold them, bond with them. I don’t think I will ever forget the time I’ve spent at 9SIR.

I’ve also managed to get into law school, or, to be specific, law and business school, much to the surprise of some of my friends who believed that I would go for something like the arts and social sciences. to be frank, i’m pretty surprised at my own choice, and being able to get in at all. i’m still in shock myself. it’s like I thought all about getting in, but not really much about what would happen afterwards. but that’s a thought for another afternoon.

this year I’ve also seen so many different people, from all walks of life: in bmt i saw more jc kids than I ever wanted to, and I saw that not all of them were just stereotypical bookworms ( although there were the token few..) . in scs I saw different teammates pass me by, some useful, some lazy, some hardworking, some girlfriend-obsessed-to-the-point-of-uselessness, some slackers, and of course, some great people – great people who would eventually end up following me to my unit and therefore being forced to put up with my crap, for at least another 12 years. and last, but not least, I saw several different recruits, from all sorts of backgrounds and all walks of life. sometimes you reach a point where you think you’d seen it all, but I find that NS constantly changes this mindset, for better or for worse.

this year i’ve also come to terms with several deaths: the death of a website that used to be more or less integral to my identity, the death of its attempt at revival and the death of what motivated me to write for so long. websites aside, on a more serious note, I’ve also seen several people come close to death this year. thankfully, none of those lines were ever crossed, but my fingers remained crossed nonetheless. on a more melodramatic note, I’ve come to terms, finally, with the horrors of junior college, and those hazy, hellish days. I used to keep thinking about the whole incident, but now I’ve stopped losing sleep over it. I’ve also almost completely forgotten about the details. safe to say, I’ve moved on from what used to tie me down.

I’ve also felt the effects of time passing this year, much more violently than ever before – I can see and feel the change come. I witnessed changes in my body, personality, and mentality. I can almost physically feel it.

the only thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the fact that my writing is still trash.

which is, I suppose, comforting to know that I’m not the only piece of trash around here.

happy new year to whoever is reading this. may you always be surrounded by good vibrations.

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A member of Singapore-based writing collective /stop@BadEndRhymes ("/s@ber"), Valen dwells in the swamp of poetry. He has been published in various publications, including Anxious Poets Society, Eunoia Review and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. He has performed his work at the Arts House, the Singapore Art Museum, and in various dingy bars.

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