Why not just leave?

There are a significant number of Singaporeans who spend a large amount of their time complaining and ranting about how they want to leave Singapore and how some other country is really better. To leave with hopes of finding a new life that is so much more X and less Y as compared to Singapore.

We all have our reasons. What I don’t understand is how these people can claim to detest this country so much or deem this place so unacceptable and still be here.

Why not just leave already?

Then comes the excuses and ‘reasons’ why they can’t just up and leave, oh no, not at this instance.

After my studies, I’ll go.
I have an obligation to my family.
I need more capital to get on my feet.

The list could and would go on for a very long time. There are people who eventually leave, but how many never do? How many realize that the very excuses they wear over their heads are the ones that eventually become reasons why they should not leave?

If it was that bad, or if you wanted something so badly, nobody would be able to stand in your way. I don’t dispute the fact that there are certainly legit instances where people are inevitably bound by circumstance and are unable to pursue this course of action, to leave Singapore, but more often than not, it’s just a never ending array of excuses.

I used to share these very sentiments. I hated so many things in and about Singapore. Most of all, I hated the idea of having to serve National Service before I enlisted. I didn’t agree with the rationale or the justifications that the government provided for sending us off to do something we didn’t consent to. We were born into it.

I disliked waking up in the wee hours of the morning to do jumping jacks and press ups on the cold, hard gravel with a stomach filled only with 500ml of water.

Now, with just two more days before I complete my full time National Service term and move on to the reservist stage of my NS life, I realize that the ‘reasons’ I had for contemplating leaving Singapore in the first place are the very reasons that I have come to love this country.

I like the idea of waking up and knowing where to go if I wanted to have some Roti Prata or a place of Nasi Lemak. I take comfort in knowing that as I sleep on my own bed every night, some unlucky enlistee is sacrificing sleep and comfort for training or security somewhere. I’ve served my time as that guy, so have the people before me and so will the people to come.

I enjoy the nostalgia I feel when I go on a holiday to a foreign country and how I feel when I come back to Singapore. That sense of comfort wrapped around the nagging feeling of loss when your vacation ends. You’d miss your holiday destination and all the aspects of that place that Singapore does not and possibly will never have, but as I return to my home and place my belongings where they should be, take a shower in that same bathroom in the house that I grew up in, I feel a sense of belonging that I know I cannot find anywhere else.

Singapore, like any other country, has her own fair share of downsides. Our political structure is not as contemporary or modern as we’d like it to be. The new generation of people that will eventually transform Singapore are slowly chipping away at the building blocks that our elders have built. We reject the old ways yet we resist the changes that are proposed.

The older generation have less issues staying rooted to the country that they grew up in, despite all her flaws and downsides, because they helped to build this Nation, in one way or another. The new policies may generate controversy among the younger ones, but we as youth should understand that this country do not belong to us like the way it belongs to them, the elders that have laugh, cried, sweat and bled for this country more than we have.

They make the decisions, for now, and as for us, we play our part by preparing ourselves for change that we will bring unto ourselves or watch our peers bring upon this growing nation.

Singapore has seen tremendous growth and perhaps that is why we find ourselves wedged in between the aging generation and the generation that is slowly taking on more responsibility and more control over how things should be in their eyes. A constant struggle of identity, a dispute between what has been built and what we would like to see.

Some things will never change, but some will. The popular anecdote that change is the only constant in life will tap us on the shoulder someday when we become the elders of this country and say ‘remember me?’ as the younger generation then would contest and dispute all the changes that we have made because we were unhappy with how things were during our youth, but these are normal for a country that is still growing.

The elders are more forgiving towards the government when it comes to shortcomings because they are appreciative of what they have done to build this country, like how it is easier to forgive your friends for their wrongs against you as opposed to someone you are still getting to know.

There are many things that I do not like about Singapore from the weather to the rising prices (not to mention the very existence of COE) to crowded Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) trains, but this is where the chips have fallen. We can’t be a nation of people who talk about how undesirable our country is and still expect things to get better. That’s like sitting on your couch everyday and complaining about how you’re gaining weight.

That’s naive thinking and it took me a long time to realize it.

There are always options and opportunities elsewhere, perhaps somewhere that I might possibly find more happiness, freedom or success. Perhaps I might leave someday for whatever reason I might have but as long as I’m here,

I’m happy that I am.


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