* Thanks to R and J for taking the header photo. Also published on TR Emeritus.
This is my 100th Singapore-themed post! 💯
Presenting to you the magnificence of an immortalised affinity, AKA a certain timeless friendship in my life regarding “Singapore Recalcitrant.”
As an INFJ, I’ve always spent time thinking of quality vs. quantity when it comes to my relationships and friendships.
Like any good relationship, a good friendship is one that’s mutually supportive and acts as a source of joy or inspiration to both friends.
Side Note: I’ve prepared and edited many scripts for the Optimal Relationships Daily podcast show, hosted by the lovely Joc Marie! Check it out for tips on improving the many relationships in your life.
When I inadvertently got involved with (Singapore-focused) socio-political blogging in 2014, it brought about changes in my social network. I developed a great sense of camaraderie with several folks in the same niche as we were commonly united by speaking truth to power and reminding the public of various injustices that deserve to be exposed.
My First Encounter with “Singapore Recalcitrant”
The most fascinating blog I came across was Singapore Recalcitrant, helmed by former ISD Director Mr. Yoong Siew Wah.
His incisive, colorful, and unrestrained intellectual style of written expression always drew me in as a reader and fellow blogger. He is IN HIS NINETIES but you wouldn’t know it from the effervescence and energy of his written work.
It was not just his writing, but the dignified and prominent professional insights that were always very mesmerising for me to peruse. You’ve got to have nerves of steel when you stand up to speak out about grave injustices, and a whole lot of integrity to uphold your beliefs with unwavering conviction.
An interesting fact is that Mr. Yoong and I are both fire tiger signs in the Chinese zodiac. We may be separated by several decades in terms of age, but are kindred spirits in terms of the Chinese zodiac.
My Blogging as Archivist
I don’t have a master’s degree or PhD in history, political science, or archival work.
However, I do have an analytical mindset, which I fully applied to the task of highlighting some choice quotations (and scholarly Chinese idioms!) from Mr. Yoong’s blog posts over the years. You can view Quotes Part 1 and Part 2 on this blog.
He was very appreciative of the collection of quotes that I diligently compiled.
It always seemed like the right thing for me to do without being asked, as it’s an archivist’s job to assemble and preserve valuable historical information.
A Godfatherly Request
I met Mr. Yoong several times during my fun and relaxing 2015 trip to Singapore. The photo on my about page is from one of those meet-ups.
This year, Mr. Yoong reached out to say that he had thought of asking me to be his goddaughter due to our shared blogging endeavor and mutual intellectual admiration. Of course I said “yes” as I had (quietly) thought of him as a kind of intellectual grandfather based on some of our previous correspondence and conversations.
Coincidentally, I dreamt of Mr. Yoong and I having dinner the day he made this request. There have been a number of other dreams of a similar theme which lends an ethereal touch to the way we communicate.
A Glaring Age Difference?
I am in my thirties while Mr. Yoong is in his nineties.
At first, I was a bit annoyed at this age gap, and a bit disappointed that this exceedingly meaningful friendship may not be as long-lasting as I would like in terms of time within the earthen world.
After some thought, I decided that it would make more sense to appreciate such a connection while it lasts instead of avoid it due to its earthly transiency.
A Source of Intellectual Inspiration
The intensely intellectual component of this friendship is something I could only dream of.
It’s not often that I come across individuals with a highly developed aesthetic and intellectual sense who have little trace of an air of superiority. I’ve been in romantic relationships with highly intellectual folks who thought nothing of insulting or berating me whenever I had a different point of view (which negates however great the intellectual connection might have been in those cases — what’s the point if the other person doesn’t respect who you really are as a person?).
Perhaps this is karma or a bit of poetic justice, in the sense that I initially started blogging about Singapore matters due to an argument I had with my scholar-boyfriend at the time.
This scholar was a foreigner studying in Singapore who worshipped LKY and the PAP. We would get into heated arguments about Singapore politics, and I decided to blog about Singapore’s Education System (my first SG post) to see if there’d be anyone out there who appreciated some of my views.
I don’t keep in touch with my exes, but I like to think of what that scholar would make of my friendship with an individual of Mr. Yoong’s stature.
The intellectual connection is also a source of inspiration for my creative writing work and even on my outlook on life. It makes me appreciate the close connections I have, and to never take my time for granted. Life can be unpredictable and I could find myself dead tomorrow for no good reason. If that be the case, I would like to have lived a full life with few regrets.
Having a meaningful friendship has also influenced me to be more expressive.
In person, I have had a habit of keeping quiet at times for the sake of politeness, or not wanting to be confrontational. However, I’m considering speaking up more often on things I’m passionate about, and in a friendly way on my personal blog in the online space. I can’t please everyone by being myself, but I’d rather be in that situation than try to please everyone and end up miserable because I couldn’t fully be my own person.
My Next Singapore Voyage
Mr. Yoong shared his thoughts about me in a nice post on his blog.
There are so many solid good points of an age gap friendship. In my eyes, you get the best of both worlds — wisdom, companionship, and more, within a judgement-free zone. And in a way, age is just a number. What’s more important is the substance of the conversational exchanges and the affinity or mutual sense of fellowship.
My kind and supernice boyfriend will be travelling with me to Singapore quite soon to meet up with my godfather, godparents, and some family and old friends I’ve kept in contact with over the years.
Above all, my friendship with Mr. Yoong has made a big impression on me to value critical and independent thought. And not just that, but to value expression (in terms of both style AND substance), as well as authentic and meaningful connections in my life. I have been a lifelong discerning person as a Virgo, and this allows me to be very careful with who I choose and enjoy having as part of my inner circle.
It is a meaningful connection that could only have come about by the grace of God / The Divine, and something I will cherish for the rest of time.