In this life that we are living,
changing is the hardest part.
You say goodbye and then
you start all over again.
-The End (Is The Beginning) by Sam Tsui
Whoever said that change was good, well, screw them.
That was the only thought circling in Jing En’s mind. Knees pulled up to her chest, back against the wall, body tucked into a blanket. The go-to for the attempt to distract herself from the events life threw at her.
Lamenting over life was not a favourite pastime of hers. Was it anyone else’s?
The whole idea for change was well, things had to change. A shift to a new landscape obviously tests the endurance and ability of a person to adapt to unfamiliar situations. New challenges, new perspectives.
It didn’t help that her entire family was encouraging of her studying overseas. A privilege, but something she wasn’t prepared to trudge through the waters of uncertainty for.
With a sigh, Jing En pressed her head to the wall, the cool surface providing temporary relief from her racing mind.
All change did was tear down the stability of the present and throw them into the crashing waves of chaos. By the end, her tired soul would have simply floated through the abyss of the sea, hoping to find an anchor.
At least graduation wasn’t so bad. No one threw their graduate hats in the air, unlike an anecdote from Juliet Shin, her friend who attended a different school, where hats had rained down on them like pointy covered shards of doom. Such dramatic retellings were always appreciated for entertainment.
Losing control over herself, the roles she prided so much on. Fear sank into her veins at this idea, she wasn’t ready to loosen her grasp on those yet.
The familiar stinging of tears gathering in the corner of her eyes only made her feel worse. Jing En wiped the hot tears away from her cheeks, sniffling into a pit of self pity and patheticness.
But as she desperately rubbed at her eyes, her throat tightened, making her almost choke on her sobs. The constriction in her airway heightened her senses, forcing her to take in deep gulps of air.
She could still hear them, the taunts and students’ jeers. Their cruel laughter and poisonous words constantly looped in her head during the worst nights.
Fingernails digging crescents into her skin, Jing En forced herself to suck in her wallow of self-pity out of frustration.
After all, who cried due to silly little jabs? Especially over the smallest issues, past bullies and insults should be left in the dust. The arrows of venom they shot should rebound from the walls she built.
Just breathe, she told herself.
Breathe in for 4 seconds.
Oxygen filling her lungs, a secure feeling engulfing from inside out.
Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
Tranquility seeping into frame as she closed her eyes to amplify the effect.
Exhale for 8 seconds.
The voices faded away, the piercing stares at her back vanishing as she regained her breathing rate to a usual rhythm.
Using breathing techniques weren’t often for Jing En, but when she had to, it really aided the easing of her anxious feelings.
The faint register of two knocks on her bedroom door before being opened was the final thing she saw as slumber whisked her away to the land of dreams.
Sunlight streamed through the cracks of the curtains, inviting warm rays of light into the living room. The core of a living space, comfy couches and soft cushions posing an area for leisure and socialising. A place where life really thrived.
Curled up in the corner of the couch, Jing En busied herself with a novel, trying to begin the day with a fresh start of reading. Soaking in the restful silence, she could feel the weight sink into the space beside her, there was also a mug set on the coffee table.
“How are you, Jing En?”
“I’m fine,” came her short reply.
“Doesn’t sound like you were last night.”
Closing her book with a firm shut, Jing En didn’t meet her mum’s gaze. “What are you talking about?”
A sigh. “Let’s just say that I know exactly what you’re going through.”
“Oh, do you?” Jing En scowled, there was no way to hide from her mum. She could read her like an open book. “I’m standing on the borderline, with no idea how to summon the courage to take a step forward.”
“It happens to all of us, dear.”
“Yeah, but no one is like me. I’m the one who has to feel all these negative feelings and the pain of things changing. You can just sit here, telling me all sorts of things, but you’re not experiencing it with me.”
“That doesn’t mean I’ve never gone through this before. Without change, there’s no growth.” Her mum took her hands into hers, gently squeezing them with reassurance. “It’s just the way life is.”
After her grandfather received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work overseas, he brought his family to emigrate to a vast continent very different from their home. Her mother was a teenager then, truly a massive change must have altered her original plans.
“Was it difficult?”
Her mum smiled, but there was a small unspoken sadness in her eyes.
“I didn’t really have a choice.”
Foreign lands, intimidating systems and everyone’s a stranger.
“My brothers were ecstatic to leave, a new environment held so many opportunities. All awaited them was an adventure waiting to be discovered.”
“What about you?”
Jing En tilted her head in curiosity, trying to gauge her mother’s emotions from the way she composed herself.
“Like I said, I had to go.”
“But it turned out for the best, didn’t it? I did well and eventually, I came back.” Her mum let out a sound of resolution. “And what would my life be without you?”
Ducking from her mum’s attempts to pinch her cheeks, Jing En knitted her eyebrows and scooted to the opposite side of the couch.
“Mum, I’m not a child anymore,” she huffed, stubbornly turning away.
“The world doesn’t stop spinning just because you shut another door.” Despite everything, her mum reached over to tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Every moment you experience right now will stay with you.”
She shrugged her shoulders, feigning lethargy. But her mother was not going to let her go.
“Think about it this way: life is like a train. We are all waiting to get by each stop to our destination, the real deal. As we journey, the sceneries change and things will be looking different at every place. But our destination stays the same, doesn’t it?”
A nod from her drew a smile.
After months of contemplation and discussion, plans for an education overseas were set. Jing En was a baby bird who was ready to leave the nest and soar to great heights. Unless she fell instantly, a conversation for another time. Why waste time worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet?
Jing En swung her legs above the ground, allowing herself to revel in the moment of childishness. Some things really never changed; she meant to keep it that way.
No one said that maintaining the inner child was a crime.
She had insisted on waiting at the train station herself, bidding farewell to family after being dropped off to save herself and family from sappy tears. A win-win situation, really.
In whatever darkness humankind has endured, people have always made it out in the end. No matter what path they chose, they reached the light at the end of the tunnel.
The train’s engines roared, slowly turning into a low rumble as it rolled to the platform. With anticipation, she pulled the suitcase closer to her side. Jing En could hear her mother’s words, a complacent grin.
“Nothing is ever really over, child.”
She stood to her feet as the train doors drew open.
“For this is just a new beginning.”
Written by: Zhen Li