My First Love and Literature Played Out IRL

In literature classes, we are often taught to spot parallels, metaphors and analogies. When I was in secondary four (the most senior grade in secondary school) my class studied a play called Boom, written by Jean Tay, which evolved around the past, memories and all that is lost in an en-bloc sale of public housing apartment. It is a poignant tale about the relocation of both the living and dead and how personal stories get left behind in the inexorable march of progress in Singapore.

**To give insight to my non-Singapore readers, our country is often called The Little Red Dot, the island neighbour of Malaysia. We achieved independence upon the hard work of our forefathers and our public housing, called HDB, and our housing, I heard, is something that is studied in some countries for Social Studies as a case study. **

Learning about analogies made me open my own eyes to the own parallels, metaphors and analogies in my own life. Weirdly enough, as a young woman who is prone to habitual cynicism in the love relationships department I have realised I have gone through the same path that love relationships have been known to get to in the area of my passions and personal endeavours. Same same but different. Just like the experiences with guys I have tried dating, the experiences are very few yet equally poignant.

  1. My First Love

I first got to know my first love when I was in technical college, or Institute of Technical Education. I don’t know what it is that attracted me, but it sounded good and I signed up for it. I was the only person in my class who was interested in it but came to love it I did.

As grimy and hot it was, I didn’t quite mind sweating when we had strenuous warm-ups before we worked on taekwondo moves and forms and kicks. There was a kind of accomplishment when it came to working yourself out and improving your muscle memory, coordination and reflexes as well as knowing some taekwondo forms are used for in real life dire situations.

I clung to my taekwondo extra-curricular activity out of a need to feel like i have what it takes to self-defend, considering I had been groped or almost- inappropriately touched in public places in my earlier teen years. The culture of victim blaming didn’t make things any better with feeling nobody would help even if I reported the incidents.

I came to define myself as a taekwondo practitioner and Tuesdays were always my highlight of the week, where I could also hang out with my group of guy friends in taekwondo. My deep-seated passion in taekwondo + my friends = time I enjoyed every moment of. Two hours never felt enough. Taekwondo made me feel safe, it was when I felt the most in my element. Through the frustration I had with getting the kicks right I still remained in taekwondo. NOTHING could match up to how I felt when I was in it. I thought I would be in taekwondo forever.

Until I started having insistent lower back pain that doctors couldn’t help with. The ‘breakup’ came when I was in Malaysia, seeking Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment this time and the doctor told me I had to stop strenuous activity for three years, as my nerves had atrophied.

I was devastated. This meant I had to stop taekwondo, as it consisted of strenuous activity. Yes, I could request for light training, but what would the point be if I couldn’t push myself to my own limits?

I literally felt my life crash down to its foundations with nothing left. The pain I had felt back then was the worst kind of pain I had felt, and I’m glad I don’t remember the feel of that now. I wore a full face of makeup everyday to my classes after that, because having makeup on always made me feel a lot better on days I truly felt serious shitty. For once I was strictly conforming to the attire decorum for my course. When I got home and there was nobody around, I would almost always end up crying most of my makeup off because IT WAS OVER. It took me about a year to truly grieve and get over it.

Til this day, when I see reminders of taekwondo (like a kid in taekwondo uniform in a cafe) I get the old feelings I once had for taekwondo. Apparently if the martial art was a boyfriend it would also be the ex I would never truly forget and have some feelings for, no matter what had happened.

On hindsight, the attachment I had with taekwondo was pretty unhealthy like some teens have with their exes.

2. The Best Friend/Childhood Sweetheart

My reading habit which was fostered by my mom who used to take me to the library every week even though she wasn’t a reading person herself soon turned to me writing my own stories. My favourite books back then were the Berenstein Bears, Curious George and others which involved animals living anthropomorphic lives in which they spoke, shopped and lived in houses.

Unsurprisingly,  I wrote the same kind of stuff I loved to read. The toy animals I played with became fictional characters I wrote about in notebooks. It was like playing the Sims, only in literary form and better because absolutely anything could happen and books and pens don’t glitch of their own accord.

I even drew out family trees in my books so that I could keep track of all characters that I had spawned and their generations.


If writing to my kid self was a boyfriend, it’d be the best friend I hung out with all day long with few breaks in between, playing house and making mud pies.

Now that I’m 20 and have come back to writing, I see it as a childhood sweetheart and we’re currently reconnecting as friends after a 10-year separation. Writing is different, more matured and so am I, a a person.

What I no write no longer starts with ‘It is a sunny autumn Tuesday afternoon at half past two’.

What will become of me as a writer is uncharted and only God knows.


This is the end of a long weird blog post. Signing off, til the next post! Which won’t be long as I have yet to start on my daily free write for today. TTYL.

By the way if anybody’s interested in Singaporean literature, Boom is on Goodreads under Academic and for anyone who wants to buy. It has its funny bits as well, which makes it enjoyable to read. You find out a lot more if you analyse the text though. It’s like finding Easter eggs.

(I’m having trouble with the add link function, so just copy and paste.)




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