(This post jumps around a little, chronologically. But know that I speak from a present day perspective, even if sometimes I'm referring to events in the past.)
In the midst of the highest of highs came some of the toughest life experiences I've had.
This was particularly evident when, some months ago, on my 28th birthday, I was sitting alone on a train, travelling from Gothenburg to Hamburg (that's a whole day's journey, counting transit time in Copenhagen, and waiting for the ferry from Rodby to Puttgarden), and wondering what in the world I was doing with my life.
Now, you might think that sitting on a comfortable, high speed train in Scandinavian countries isn't such a bad thing, and you would be spot on. But when you've also spent most of the past three months alone and with no promise of a permanent home, while searching for your future and having no idea where that may lie, things quickly become a lot more bleak.
One year ago, I left my job and the promise of a life in Singapore, where I had been living for over 12 years. On 1st June 2017, I was unemployed, and had no idea what was going to happen, except that I was going to head to Europe to try to get a job with a dance company there and make my dreams come true.
'Cause boy, if you've ever woken up on a sunny morning in the Alps and walked out to the fresh mountain air to play with a neighbour's cat (ok, not my neighbour, but the neighbour of my AirBnB host), saw the green grass and breathed the fresh mountain air, then you've lived in a dream. (Sure, a nightmare if you don't like cats, but you get my drift.)
And that was the dream. To go to Europe, find work, and build a life there, because the world is so big and so wide, and all I had ever known deeply was a few spots in Malaysia and Singapore.
Unfortunately, things didn't quite wind up the way I hoped when I started my trip. The reasons are varied, and important, but I won't list them here. For another time.
Anyway, after not one, but two trips to Europe, and bouncing back and forth a fair bit between Malaysia and Singapore, it looks like I'll be here in familiar territory for a while. I don't say that with resignation, but with excitement as to what the future holds.
One reason for the excitement is that towards the end of my tenure in Singapore, connections with old acquaintances in the street dance scene began to revive themselves, and new relationships also began to form. By the divine providence of God, or stroke of luck, whichever you prefer, I found that there were dancers who had walked very different paths than myself over the past ten years, but all of us had ended up looking towards the same destination: seeking to bring street dance forms into the theatre, to merge them with the sensibilities of contemporary dance, to create art that was at the same time both epic and accessible.
In short, there is a community and a movement that can be built back in Singapore.
And back in Malaysia, there is a whole 'nother dance world that I've only begun to get to know in these early months of 2018. And yes, as I get older, nostalgia becomes a little more accessible. Things like pride in my national heritage come to the fore too. So the recent change of government in Malaysia? Man, that's been exciting!
Realising that Malaysia and Singapore are where I am going to be for now doesn't at all mean that the time spent in Europe wasn't meaningful, though. If nothing else, it was an epic adventure. Travelling around the place, sometimes with little or no plan was exciting and deeply rewarding.
On my journeys, so many cool people were encountered, with whom I'm trying to keep in contact with via the Internet (at least in the Facebook-stalking sense), some of whom I hope to work with in a professional capacity one day. These individuals, and the dancers that I just got to see (and not hang out with) at events like The Notorious IBE 2017 and Open Your Mind Eindhoven 2018 have challenged and motivated me, and reminded me that there's always so much more to do and learn and grow into that resting isn't an option, unless I want to sell myself short. Conversations with these artists have been fun and meaningful, and have broadened my horizons far beyond what they once were.
There was time spent with relatives that I haven't hung out with in years (some of that is, no doubt, my fault, as I wasn't back home in Penang when they chose to visit) and friends who I haven't had a meal or coffee with for a decade or more.
The epic scenery that I got to see was one aspect of the trip not to be forgotten! I've always liked looking out the windows of moving vehicles, but being able to do so in European countrysides is really different from what you get to see in Malaysia.