25 August 2017, by Nicholas Quek
Yesterday my dad called me to ask if I wanted a packet of salted-egg salmon skin, and wanted to swing by the school to drop it off. At the time I was engaged with some schoolwork and extra-curricular activities, so I decided to pick it up over the weekend instead. We said our goodbyes and hung up.
I don’t think I’ve felt further from my family.
This is an actual conversation I overheard in the common student lounge,
‘Hey do you wanna go to KL over the weekend?’
‘Yea sure! It’s pretty near right? Only about 2 hours travel time’
That got me thinking about what distance actually means. Technically my family only lives an hour and ten minutes away, but they feel a lot further than that.
Right now, my entire life revolves around campus and campus activities. My day usually starts with a lecture in the morning, seminars till late afternoon, and club/sport activities all the way till late at night.
By time I go to bed I’m exhausted and drained. Physical time and distance is one constraint I’ve felt with regards to spending time with my family, but the psychological and social forces that have kept me from spending more time with my family are another.
Even when I was in secondary school and junior college, my days would always end with home. I’d come back to my family, no matter how late or how tired I was.
But now, my place of rest is my dorm, and voices that end off my day are often those of my suite-mates, no longer my parents or my siblings.
The closest support network I have are now my friends in dorm, who are no more than a few steps away. They’re the one who are journeying with me in this academic journey, and because of how tight-knit our community is, we’re often very aware of each other’s personal lives and the issues/problems/troubles that all of us are facing.
Updating my family on the other hand, requires much more effort on my part. They’re not always in the know of what my school is doing, and updating them on my life in campus often involves explaining to them concepts/programs/curriculum that my friends in dorm are already aware of. They don’t always understand the content I’m studying in school, and increasingly I’ve found that our conversation topics interest have diverged.
Yet, I’ve made a commitment to spending more time with my family through this semester. My family has been my biggest support for my entire life, and my current situation in school doesn’t negate how valuable my family is to me.
One of the ways that I’ll be making sure I continue to spend time with them is sticking to our Sunday dinner tradition, one that our family has upheld since I was in primary school.
It’s tempting to leave it be; even on Sunday nights there are school activities, but I think it’s worth spending that time with my family instead.
Being patient with them is another thing I’m gonna have to work hard this semester.
My family isn’t going to instinctively connect with conversation topics that I bring up, or understand the content that I’m studying in school (especially because I’m studying in a new college), so I’m going to have to be patient in explaining the things I’m studying in school, or the activities I’m involved in.
This semester is gonna be a trial of sorts, a test for how well I can manage my schedule and commitments in school. Yet through all that, I know my family will be there for me, even if I don’t see them all the time.